Arthur Camins—teacher, scientist, technologist— argues in The Daily Kos that it’s time for Democrats to abandon their support for charter schools. Are you listening, Senator Corey Booker of New Jersey, Senator Michael Bennett of Colorado, Governor Jared Polis of Colorado, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries and other charter allies?

Camins writes:

It is time for Democrats–voters and the politicians who represent them–to abandon charter schools as a strategy for education improvement or to advance equity. Charter schools, whether for- or non-profit, drain funds from public schools that serve all students, increase segregation, and by design only serve the few. Continuation of tax generated funds for charter schools, all of which are privately governed, support the current broader assault on democracy. That should not be the way forward for democracy loving Democrats. In addition, public support for private alternatives to public education suborns the lie that government cannot be the agency for solving problems.

The United States is tilting sharply toward, if not rushing headlong into, a less equitable, less democratic, more authoritarian, more racially divided, and meaner way of governing and living together. Out-for-youselfism is alarmingly rampant. Sadly, continued bipartisan state and federal support for charter schools that pit parents against one another for limited student slots reflects those tendencies.

We have been heading in that direction for decades, led by pro-wealth, anti-regulation billionaires and corporations allied with Christian religious extremists and ideological libertarians. Exacerbating extant racist, xenophobic, and misogynistic resentment is their core strategy. It is represented by a Republican Party whose only moral compass is power and for whom democracy is an expendable inconvenience.

Republican opposition to equity advances for all people, such as the National Labor Relations Act, Unemployment Insurance, Social Security, and Medicare, is nothing new. However, until the emergence of the Republican-light Democratic Leadership Council, there was a strong pro-government, pro-worker, if frequently inconsistent, opposition political party. In the absence of an explicit effort by Democrats to articulate a rationale for a multi-racial, working-class coalition, resentment flourished. Instead, many Democrats embraced deregulation and campaign cash, including contributions from the charter school industry.

This Republican-light Democratic shift could not have come at a worse time, as globalization and automation threatened the livelihood of many Americans, shaking the foundations of post-WWII perception of security, especially for many white working- and middle-class Americans. As scarcity and inequity came to be accepted as the unalterable norm, advances for some–left-out people of color, recent immigrants, and women–came to seen as coming at the expense of others. In that context, charter schools appealed social and economic insecurity.

Nonetheless, Democratic politicians from Bill Clinton to Barrack Obama embraced charter schools. The essential notion was that take-all-comers schools governed by locally elected school boards for the common good were an old-school failure. The supposed evidence was the failure to close the achievement gaps between kids from poor and well-off households. The fact that family socio-economic status explains most of the achievement gaps was ignored in favor of a blame-the-teacher and their unions ethos and test-driven blame. In supporting charter schools Democrats implicitly endorsed a competitive watch–out-for-my-own kid ethos. It is time for a new direction.

Even with substantial evidence of rampant corruption and increased segregation, national Democratic leadership has yet to fully abandon the belief in charter schools as an improvement strategy. In doing so, they abet the ongoing Republican claim that government and democracy are incapable of effective problem solving. Opposition to for-profit charter school and vouchers is insufficient. Increased oversight and rejection of for-profit charter schools is, of course, a positive step. However, the notion of schools as primarily a personal rather than a social benefit and that market-competition as an improvement driver remains intact.

Step away from charter schools, Democrats. Instead, embrace full equitable funding for all schools. Embrace professional salaries, respect, and working conditions for teachers. Embrace union protection. Embrace community schools to meet the needs of children and their families. Embrace small class size so every child can get the academic, social, and emotional supportthey need. Embrace schools to develop socially responsible citizens for a democratic equitable society.

That is the way forward for Democrats and Democracy!