Senator Sanders said in Ohio that he supports “public charter schools” and opposes “private charter schools.”
His statement left many people wondering what he meant. All charters claim to be “public,” because they get public money. Even for-profits call themselves “public,” as do corporate charter chains, like KIPP and Success Academy.


Anya Kamenetz reported at NPR about Bernie Sanders’ statement during the Ohio Town Hall.


Kamenetz writes:


Here’s the contradiction: Charter schools are all public. And, each has some element of private control….


Charter schools, by definition, are publicly funded schools, free to students and paid for by taxpayers. They are also subject to public oversight and control; for example, they have to employ licensed teachers and administer state-mandated tests, which private schools do not. They can also be closed by districts for underperformance.


However, also by definition, charter schools maintain a measure of independence from public oversight. They have freedom from certain district and union rules; for example, they can have a longer school year or school day, require uniforms, or incorporate different topics in the curriculum. They are also governed by privately appointed boards.


This is not entirely accurate. Some states, like North Carolina, do not require charter schools to employ only licensed teachers. And while it is true that charters may be closed for underperformance, most are controlled by their authorizers, not by their district; in some states, the governor appoints a commission to authorize charters that can overrule the local district (this is an ALEC model statute). In many states, charters completely avoid accountability of any kind by making political contributions to legislators and the governor (see, Ohio and Florida).
Robert Skeels, a teacher who is earning a law degree, disagrees with Kamenetz:



He writes:

Addressing Anya Kamenetz’s confusion on charter schools

Journalist Anya Kamenetz provides the charter school industry’s public relations definition of “public” in her NPR piece on Senator Sanders and charter schools. ( ) As a Juris Doctor candidate whose specialty is education law in the era of neoliberalism, allow me to present the legal arguments both on why Kamenetz’s definition is incorrect, and on how privately managed charters are not at all “public.”

Generally charter schools are not public schools. This has been long established by both existing case law and public policy. The Washington State Supreme Court (2015) held that charter schools are not “common schools” because they are governed by appointed rather than elected boards. The 9th Circuit US Court of Appeals (2010) ruled that charter schools are not “public actors.” The California Court of Appeals (2007) ruled that charter schools are not “public agents.” Additionally, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) joined scores of other government agencies in unequivocally determining that charters are, in NLRB’s words, “private entities.”

By definition if a charter school is operated by a for-profit company, or by a 501c3 non-profit corporation (e.g. Harlem Success Academy), then it is not a public school. The United States Census Bureau frames this latter issue best:

> “A few “public charter schools” are run by public universities and municipalities. However, most charter schools are run by private nonprofit organizations and are therefore classified as private.” (US Census Bureau. (2011). “Public Education Finances: 2009 (GO9-ASPEF)”. Washington, DC: US Government Printing O ce. Print. vi).
Because these lucrative charter schools are not public, and therefore not subject to even a modicum of public oversight, they are able violate the constitutional rights of their students. The decision in Scott B. v. Board of Trustees of Orange County High School of the Arts saw scholar Rosa K. Hirji, Esq. write:

> “The structures that allow charter schools to exist are marked by the absence of protections that are traditionally guaranteed by public education, protections that only become apparent and necessary when families and students begin to face a denial of what they were initially promised to be their right.” (American Bar Association )


Robert D. Skeels is a Los Angeles based social justice writer, public education advocate, and immigrant rights activist. He holds a BA in Classical Civilization from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), and is currently a Juris Doctor Candidate at Peoples College of Law (PCL).

I hope both Sanders and Clinton give a speech soon on K-12 education and explains their views.