Rachel M.Cohen wrote in the American Prospect that the Democratic candidates are distancing themselves from the charter school issue, which only a few years ago was deeply embedded in the Obama administration education policy.

This is progress. In 2016, it was nearly impossible to get any candidate to discuss K-12 education. At last they notice that it is not cool for a Democrat to support charters. Most are trying to play the issue cautiously, being against “for profit” charters, but not acknowledging that large numbers of nonprofits are managed by for profits.

This far, Bernie Sanders is the candidate who has taken the strongest stand against charters, endorsing the NAACP call for a moratorium.

Other candidates are hedging their bets.

Hours after Sanders’s education plan was released, Elizabeth Warren told reporters that she agreed for-profit charters are “a real problem.” She has not yet released her own K-12 plan. While the Massachusetts senator has supported charter schools in the past, in 2016 she came out against a high-profile ballot initiative that would have allowed charters to expand much more quickly in her state. The measure ended up failing, with 62 percent of voters siding against it. 

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg also came out to say he supports Sanders’s proposal to ban for-profit charter schools, though he affirmed a month earlier that charters “have a place” in the education landscape “as “a laboratory for techniques that can be replicated.”

Beto O’Rourke, who opposes a national moratorium on new charters, told the NEA presidential forum that “There is a place for public nonprofit charter schools, but private charter schools and voucher programs—not a single dime in my administration will go to them.” O’Rourke has supported charters in the past, and his wife is a former charter school leader who now sits on the board of a local education reform group that supports expanding charters in El Paso. 

A friend in California forwarded an email showing that charter zealot and billionaire Reed Hastings is hosting a gathering for Mayor Pete, which suggests that he would be a strong charter guy. His background at McKinsey points in the same direction.

The Network for Public Education Action will be following and grading the candidates on the issues that concern us. Feel free to let us know what you learn at town halls.

If you meet one of them, ask them if they will pledge to eliminate the federal Charter Schools Program, which currently funnels $440 Million each year to charters, mostly the big corporate chains like KIPP, which do not need a federal subsidy.