This is “national charter school week,” aka “national school privatization week.” The charter lobby—the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools—has been fighting furiously to block proposed regulations by the U.S. Department of Education that would ban federal funding of for-profit charter schools and white-flight charters. They have received sympathetic editorials, repeating the falsehoods that these sensible regulations would harm all charter schools (they won’t). Their ads are even on national television (I saw one last night on a cable news station), falsely claiming that the regulations are a direct attack on charter schools (they are not).

Who knew that the charter trade association would resort to outright lies to protect low-quality for-profit charter operators and keep federal funding available to open new white-flight charters? The regulations have zero effect on existing charters. They affect only the federal funding spent to open new charters, $440 million a year, which has been recklessly spent on for-profit chains and on charters that never opened or closed soon after opening. Why waste federal money on grifters and entrepreneurs?

By their lies, you shall know them.

The charter movement is heavily subsidized by billionaires and supported by public school haters like Charles Koch and Betsy DeVos. A few Democratic Senators sent a letter to Secretary Miguel Cardona opposing the regulations that would ban for-profit charters and white-flight charters, including Cory Booker, Michael Bennett, and Dianne Feinstein. Shame on them.

The origins of school choice are well-known: resistance to the Brown decision. Derek Black in his great book Schoolhouse Burning established beyond doubt that the Founding Fathers anticipated the establishment of public schools when they wrote the Northwest Ordinances, which required new states to set aside a plot of land in every town for a public school.

A reader who calls him/herself Democracy posted the following comment:

As I’ve noted more than once previously, the Founders were advocates of PUBLIC education as the means to promote the common good, and democratic citizenship. It – the idea that public schools should teach democratic citizenship – stretches back to Aristotle:

In Book 8 of Politics, Aristotle explained the importance of public education to democratic governance. He points out the different foundational ethos of governments:

“the legislator should direct his attention above all to the education of youth; for the neglect of education does harm to the constitution The citizen should be molded to suit the form of government under which he lives. For each government has a peculiar character which originally formed and which continues to preserve it. The character of democracy creates democracy, and the character of oligarchy creates oligarchy; and always the better the character, the better the government.”

It’s worth repeating: “…the better the character, the better the government.”

What occurred from January 20, 2017 until January 20, 2021 was a steep and marked absence of democratic character in the Oval Office and the halls of Congress.

In fact, the Founders created the constitutional structure for a democratic society “in which the common good was the chief end of government.” They adopted John Locke’s view that the main purpose of government –– the reason people CREATE government –– is to protect their persons through, as historian R. Freeman Butts put it, a social contract that placed “the public good above private desires.”

The goal, then, was “a commonwealth, a democratic corporate society in which the common good was the chief end of government.” Public education was part and parcel of social contract, helping to develop and maintain the common good.

It’s precisely because of the importance of public schooling to civic education and democratic citizenship that Aristotle concluded this:

“education should be one and the same for all, and that it should be public, and not private- not as at present, when every one looks after his own children separately, and gives them separate instruction of the sort which he thinks best; the training in things which are of common interest should be the same for all. Neither must we suppose that any one of the citizens belongs to himself, for they all belong to the state, and are each of them a part of the state, and the care of each part is inseparable from the care of the whole.”

That’s worth repeating too: “…the care of each part is inseparable from the care of the whole.”

The democratic social contract – the guts of the American Republic – was under continued assault from January 20, 2017 until January 20, 2021, and was under DIRECT attack on January 6, 2021. Republican elected officials of all stripes, and Republican voters, were responsible. They refuse to take any personal responsibility; they try to evade and avoid accountability; and they redirected their efforts to undermine democratic values.

The current proxy is public schooling. At its core, the offensive against public education is an assault on democratic character and values, on the rule of law, and on equality and “liberty and justice for all.” And at its core, it relies on an ugly racism that casts whites as “the victims.”

The attack on public schools is NOT some spontaneous “parent rights” outburst. It’s orchestrated. It’s being funded and set into motion by right-wing “Christians” at the Council for National Policy, a far-right group that had tremendous influence with the Trump administration. Richard DeVos, husband of Betsy, has been president of CNP, twice. Ed Meese, who helped Reagan cover up the Iran-Contra scandal, has been president of CNP. So has Pat Robertson. And Tim LaHaye.

Current and former CNP members include Cleta Mitchell, the Trump lawyer who was on that call to the Georgia Secretary of State demanding that he find Trump more than 11,780 votes, and Charlie Kirk, head of Turning Point USA who bragged about bussing tens of thousands of people to the January 6th ‘Stop the Steal’ rally and insurrection. Two of the top people at the Federalist Society, Eugene Meyer and Leonard Leo, are also CNP members. Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, is a member.

You can read about Ginni Thomas here:

“The claim that the Justices’ opinions are politically neutral is becoming increasingly hard to accept, especially from Thomas, whose wife, Virginia (Ginni) Thomas, is a vocal right-wing activist. She has declared that America is in existential danger because of the ‘deep state’ and the ‘fascist left’… on January 6, 2021 she cheered on the supporters of Donald Trump who had gathered to overturn Biden’s election…”

You can read about Betsy DeVos here:

Right-winger Milton Friedman argued for returning to a pre-Aristotle era of schooling, saying, “In my ideal world, government would not be responsible for providing education.”

That’s what Republicans are dedicated to; destroying public schools, and stealing their funding.

My addendum: if they destroy our public schools, they will destroy public libraries, public lands, the right to vote and, in time, our democracy.