Caitlin Reilly of “Inside Philanthropy” writes that philanthropies no longer see charter schools as the means to transform American education. Although a few have doggedly doubled down on their commitment to charters, there seems to be a broad shift underway. Reilly calls it an “inflection point,” a point where change is undeniable.

She writes:

“Though charter schools have acquired a powerful ally on the national level in the form of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, local backlash and scaling challenges have led to questions about the future of the publicly funded, privately run schools.

“Philanthropic enthusiasm for the charter movement is at a similar inflection point. For now, support for charters seems to be holding. However, the schools have had trouble reaching scale and have yet to catalyze the system-wide transformation many backers hoped for.

“Some of the field’s champions take that as a sign of the work left to do. Those foundations are doubling down on their support for the schools.

“Other funders, including former stalwart backers of charters, see the failure of this model to scale and spread as a reason to pause and consider their future investments. Those foundations tend to see charter schools as an important part of the education landscape, but not as a means to transform the system.

“Meanwhile, major new donors arriving on the education scene from the business world haven’t gravitated to charters in the same way that many such philanthropists did a decade ago. While these schools remain a growing sector within K-12, drawing political support and philanthropic dollars, the momentum around charters among funders has palpably slowed in recent years.”

The bottom line is that charters have become politically toxic, and its hard to paint them as “progressive” when Betsy DeVos is their most potent champion and striking teachers demand a moratorium on them. What’s “progressive” about schools that are highly segregated, overwhelmingly non-union, and have a record of excluding the neediest children?

It’s no accident that the foundation most deeply invested in creating new charters is the archconservative, anti-union Walton Family Foundation, which claims credit for opening 2,000 charters, more than one of every four in the nation. Why is this family, whose net worth exceeds $150 billion, devoted to charters? Charters kill unions. That works for Walmart.

We learn here that Eli Broad seems to losing his once-passionate commitment to charters. Eli  Broad!

“There does seem to be a faction of the charter movement that is stepping back to consider what comes next, and are open to charters playing a smaller role in future efforts.

“One of those people is Andy Stern, a board member of the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and board chair of the Broad Center.

Stern started out as an unlikely ally of the charter movement. He is the president emeritus of the Service Employees International Union, which grew by 1.2 million workers under his leadership. Given the antagonism many felt charter schools held toward unions, some were surprised by Stern’s decision to get involved with Eli Broad, an early and ardent supporter of the charter movement.

“Stern didn’t see charter schools as antithetical to his work on behalf of workers and unions, though.

“I got involved in charters because of the members’ of my union’s kids,” he said. “To me, giving janitors’ kids a chance to get the best education possible was everything they wanted from coming to this country. In Los Angeles, where we started, that was not their experience.”

“Now, Stern’s enthusiasm for the schools is waning, and it sounds like Broad’s may be, as well.

“So I would say Eli [Broad], absent any of the recent strikes and activities, has been rethinking what he wants to do in education, as he has been thinking about what he wants to do in the arts and science, as well,” Stern said. “As he thinks about his age and what he wants to see happen in a transition, I’d say there is a natural rethinking and reprioritizing going on.”

Reilly did not speak to any critics of charter schools, other than Randi Weingarten, whose union operates a charter school in New York City. She did not speak to Carol Burris or me or Jeff Bryant or Peter Greene or Anthony Cody or Leonie Haimson or Julian Vasquez Heilig or Mercedes Schneider or Tom Ultican or any of the many others who have warned about the rise of charters and the danger they present to public education.

Nor did she examine the many scandals that have brought down the repute of charters, like UNO in Chicago or ECOT in Ohio.

The good news is that many philanthropists are disenchanted with school choice.