In a somewhat ambivalent article in the New York Times, Jennifer Medina and Dana Goldstein write that the L.A. teachers’ strike was a setback for charter schools. They say that in the age of Trump, charters are no longer popular with the Democratic Party, which is moving left. They point out that the teachers held a massive rally in front of Eli Broad’s museum to express their displeasure with his support for charters.

The ambivalence in the article comes in two parts. First, they treat somewhat skeptically the union’s accurate portrayal of the link between charters and billionaires. Second, they stress that charters are popular and have long waiting lists. They are wrong on both counts. The charter “movement” is a billionaire obsession. Think Waltons, Gates, Broad, DeVos, Koch brothers, Hastings, Bloomberg, Anschutz, etc. Read the NPE report, which the reporters obviously have not read, called “Hijacked by Billionaires.” Without the billionaires, there is no charter “movement.”

Second, they are peddling charter lobby propaganda when they write about the public demand for charters.

Why would unions support charters? Nationally, 90% are non-union. In L.A., 80% are non-union. Moreover, they drain $600 million a year from the L.A. public schools, which are underfunded already.

Contrary to the report in the Times, LAUSD board member Scott Schmerelson wrote on his Facebook page this week that 82% of the charters in L.A. have vacancies.

But the main point of the article is heartening: Charter Schools have become toxic for most Democrats. They even list Senator Booker as a supporter of the striking teachers, which is odd, as he announced his run for the Democratic nomination in 2020 at a charter rally in New Orleans. Maybe he whispered his support. The Democrats will have to choose: unions or charters.


The article begins:


LOS ANGELES — Carrying protest signs, thousands of teachers and their allies converged last month on the shimmering contemporary art museum in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. Clad in red, they denounced “billionaire privatizers” and the museum’s patron, Eli Broad. The march was a preview of the attacks the union would unleash during the teachers’ strike, which ended last week.

As one of the biggest backers of charter schools, Mr. Broad helped make them a fashionable and potent cause in Los Angeles, drawing support from business leaders like Reed Hastings, the co-founder of Netflix; Hollywood executives; and lawmakers to create a wide network of more than 220 schools.

Mr. Broad was so bullish about the future of charter schools just a few years ago that he even floated a plan to move roughly half of Los Angeles schoolchildren — more than 250,000 students — into such schools. In 2017, he funneled millions of dollars to successfully elect candidates for the Board of Education who would back charters, an alternative to traditional public schools that are publicly funded but privately run.

His prominence has also turned him into a villain in the eyes of the teachers’ union. Now Mr. Broad and supporters like him are back on their heels in Los Angeles and across the country. The strike is the latest setback for the charter school movement, which once drew the endorsement of prominent Democrats and Republicans alike. But partly in reaction to the Trump administration, vocal Democratic support for charters has waned as the party has shifted further to the left and is more likely to deplore such schools as a drain on traditional public schools.

When the Los Angeles mayor, Eric Garcetti, announced a deal between the teachers’ union and the school district after the weeklong strike, it became immediately clear that the fate of charter schools was part of the bargain: The union extracted a promise that the pro-charter school Board of Education would vote on a call for the state to cap the number of charters.

It was the latest in a string of defeats for a movement that for over a decade has pointed to Los Angeles and California as showcases for the large-scale growth of the charter school sector.

Backers of charter schools argue that they provide a much-needed choice for parents in poor neighborhoods, where low-performing schools are often the norm. Many supporters expressed frustration that student achievement had not been a focus of the debate around the Los Angeles strike. Overall, the city’s public school students tend to perform worse in reading and math than their counterparts in many other large urban school districts across the country, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The low performance of district schools, charter supporters say, has led to about a fifth of the district’s students being enrolled in charter schools…..

But the defeat in the court of public opinion is clear: After years of support from powerful local and national allies — including many Democrats — charter schools are now facing a backlash and severe skepticism.

Over the past two years, charter school supporters were dealt painful political defeats in California, New York, Massachusetts, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and other states.

As the push for alternatives to traditional public schools has come to be more associated with President Trump and his secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, the shift in Democratic Party politics has been especially pronounced. President Barack Obama supported expanding high-quality charter schools, and pushed teachers’ unions to let go of some of their traditional seniority protections and put more emphasis on raising student achievement.

But after a wave of mass teacher walkouts across the nation, and with a noticeable shift to the left in the party, ambitious national Democrats now seem more hesitant to criticize organized labor. Senators Cory Booker, Sherrod Brown, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren were among those who said they supported the striking teachers in Los Angeles. The city’s charter school leaders couldn’t help but notice that no equally prominent elected Democrat rose to the defense of Los Angeles charter schools as union leaders attacked them.