I watched the replay of the Ohio Town Hall specifically to understand what Bernie said about charter schools.


The teacher who posed the question was a TFA charter teacher. She asked a leading question. She asserted that in Ohio, charter schools lead the state in helping poor black and Hispanic children, then she asked whether they should play a role in solving the problems of these children.


To begin with, her assertion was inaccurate. It was propaganda for charters, which in Ohio have experienced numerous financial and academic scandals. In addition, she failed to mention that charters are far more likely to be low-performing than public schools. (See: here and here). Ohio has charter operators who give large campaign contributions and evade accountability. Some Ohio charter owners have made millions.


Bernie Sanders responded that he supports public education, and he supports public charter schools. He then talked about the importance of public schools in building our society and the value of neighborhood public schools. He added that he wants to have innovation and experimentation in schools; he referred to schools in Vermont that are innovative, and stumbled about whether they are public charter schools. Someone, perhaps the host, said, “magnet schools,” and Sanders quickly agreed.


At that moment, I realized that Senator Sanders doesn’t know that most charter schools are privately managed and that all charter schools, even if they are part of a corporate chain or run for-profit, call themselves “public charter schools.”


I am convinced that Senator Sanders does not know much about charter schools. I am also convinced that he sincerely believes in the importance of public schools.


Someone needs to sit down with him and explain that charter schools span the spectrum, but that many are run to make money, that many exclude English language learners and children with disabilities, that charters take resources away  from neighborhood public schools, and that many are run by corporate chains.