In the midst of an eternal presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton surveyed a smorgasbord of potential treats she could have served the electorate last weekend while campaigning in South Carolina, and decided on a gigantic pitcher of stale teachers-union Kool-Aid about charter schools.
In a profoundly disappointing pronouncement, especially given President Bill Clinton’s strong support for charters and her own history of advocacy, Clinton declared, “Charters don’t take the hardest-to-teach kids, or, if they do, they don’t keep them.”
Then she offered dessert: “Public schools…thankfully, take everybody, and then they don’t get the resources or the help and support that they need to be able to take care of every child’s education.”
Let’s look at these statements with some common sense and facts. When one reviews the ten districts nationally with the greatest percentage of students in charter schools, accounting for nearly a quarter of all students in the US enrolled in charters, more than 80 percent of students qualify for free or reduced priced lunch, while 86 percent are from minority backgrounds. Nationwide, 63 percent of charter student qualify for free and reduced lunches compared with 48 percent in traditional public schools. The African-American population is larger—28 percent versus 16 percent; the Hispanic population the same—28 percent versus 23 percent.
The charter movement is indeed growing, and while it’s true that the middle class is beginning to take notice, charter schools around the country have not been predominantly in middle class or higher income neighborhoods. They are in urban locales or blue-collar suburbs, so it strains credulity to say that they aren’t teaching the kids representative of those areas. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools published this month a list of the 160 school districts where charters now enroll at least 10 percent of students. Even a cursory review supports this assertion.