Carol Burris notes that charter-friendly Democrats have been put in a jam since Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have announced their intention to eliminate federal funding for charter schools, which is currently $440 million a year and used by Betsy DeVos primarily to expand big corporate chains.

She writes:

Since Elizabeth Warren joined Bernie Sanders in calling for an end to the U.S. Department of Education’s Charter Schools Program (CSP), the charter school establishment has been frantically trying through editorials, postings and back channels to get Warren to change her mind.

One of the latest and more subtle attempts has been made by the Center for American Progress (CAP), that serves as the “think tank” for the least progressive arm of the Democratic Party, at least when it comes to education policy.

 Readers may remember CAP as the cheerleaders for the Common Core during the Obama years. It embraced all of the failed policies of Race to the Top, including evaluating teachers by test scores and the collection of big data on student performance to drive “data driven” reform.

 In a recent posting, no doubt in response to Warren’s call to shut down CSP, they issued a call for CSP “modernization” that you can find here.

 Since it began in 1995, the CSP has spent $4.1 billion on starting and expanding charter schools in nearly every state. Rather than addressing the big problems of the program—the funding of unauthorized charters that never open, the program’s history of sending hundreds of millions to charter schools that open and shut down, and the flow of money that goes to for-profit operators via “non-profit” schools, it tinkers around the edges with rules and suggestions for even more programs.

 One suggested “reform” calls for communities to analyze the need for more schools, presumably charter schools, via the grants.  That call does not follow up with the recommendation that CSP funds be given only to applicants in communities that find need. All CAP is calling for, therefore, is one more CSP program that would do nothing to address the problem of charter school saturation, which is overwhelming public school systems by draining the insufficient resources they have.

 They also call for funding to develop “unified enrollment systems.” Such systems, favored by the proponents of portfolio districts, are designed to expand the footprint of charter schools,while being disguised as an equity reform. One of the favored private vendors for unified enrollment is a company called SchoolMint. SchoolMint is presently being used in Camden, New Jersey, San Antonio, Texas, Denver, Colorado and other choice-driven districts.

 SchoolMint makes it mission clear when it comes to charter schools— “your growth is our game plan.” In this blog on the company’s website it shows how school districts can steer low-income families to certain schools, because after all, the program knows best especially when it comes to low-income families. SchoolMint can easily be used to steer parents away from what would be their first choice, their local public schoolto a charter school. Public school advocates on the ground in Camden have told NPE that is exactly what is happening.

 Another recommendation of CAP is for funding to create additional charter networks. However, cities are already overwhelmed by the giant CMOs like IDEA, KIPP, Great Hearts and the Gulen-affiliated CMOs that actively recruit and pull the most motivated students from the public schools, as well as fromthe independent charters that are attempting to realize the charter ideal of teacher and parent led schools formed for innovation.

 In short, the CAP call for reform ignores the serious issues that we brought to light in our NPE report, Asleep at the Wheel.  I believe it is designed to give candidates an alternative to the promises of Sanders and Warren to shut down the federal charter funding supplied by the CSP.

 Like the silly stand of “I’m against for-profit charters”, even though there are only a handful of for-profit charter schools in the nation, the CAP “reforms” are just one more attempt by neo-liberals to give Democratic candidates the appearance of actively supporting charter reform, while still supporting the status quo.

 CAP’s latest report serves as a reminder that the Democrats who share the DeVos agenda have not disappeared, even though none of the Democratic candidates is willing to admit in public that they do.