Charter schools are an alternative to failing public schools that many parents, especially low-income parents who don't have the option of private schools, see as the road to success for their children. So it is bad news that Hillary Clinton has come out against them. A Wall Street Journal editorial this morning notes:
Hillary Clinton has moved to the left of President Obama on trade, energy, immigration, student loans, health care and entitlements. But even we’re surprised by her latest move, which is to turn against charter schools as an engine of education opportunity.
“Most charter schools, they don’t take the hardest-to-teach kids, or, if they do, they don’t keep them. And so the public schools are often in a no-win situation,” Mrs. Clinton said last weekend in South Carolina. She also acknowledged that “for many years now” she has “supported the idea of charter schools,” though “not as a substitute for the public schools.”
Well, as Mrs. Clinton used to appreciate, charter schools are public schools—albeit freed from bureaucracy and union work rules. In her 1996 memoir, “It Takes a Village,” she wrote that “I favor promoting choice among public schools, much as the President’s Charter Schools Initiative encourages.” In 2007 she told a teachers-union conference in New York that “I actually do believe in charter schools.”
Could Mrs. Clinton's change of heart have anything to do with an endorsement from 1.6 million-member American Federation of Teachers, which is inclined to protect their members at the expense of students? It detest the competition that charter schools, which lack the normal public school bureaucracy, provide.
This is a victory for Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation for Teachers, who recently flexed her muscle against New York City's Success Academy charter schools, which Ms. Weingarten criticizes for not allowing unruly kids to stay, even though the attrition rate is far less than in public schools.
The significance of Mrs. Clinton's reversal on charter schools should not be overlooked. The Journal concludes:
Mrs. Clinton’s charter reversal suggests her Education Department would be a wholly owned union subsidiary. The losers will be the poor parents and children who Democrats claim to represent.