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Nation’s Largest Teachers Union Demands Biden Oppose Charter School Expansion, End School Choice For D.C.’s Low-Income Students
U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden speaks at the National Education Association (NEA), convention, at the Washington Convention Center, on July 3, 2012 in Washington, DC.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

A “policy playbook” released by the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union, suggests the Biden administration should focus on public schools ahead of all else and even curb access to charter and private schools.

Under a section about charter schools, the NEA claims that any “program that diverts resources from the traditional public schools that 90 percent of American students attend by definition undermines the promise of public education.” The organization called on the Biden administration to:

  • Oppose all charter school expansion that undermines traditional public schools.  
  • Bar federal funding to charter schools, charter school authorizers, and charter school management companies not authorized or operated by local school districts.
  • Require charter schools, charter school authorizers, and charter school management companies to abide by the same laws and regulations applicable to traditional public schools.

Since the NEA says up front that they believe charter schools divert resources from traditional public schools, their first suggestion means they are in opposition to all charter school expansion. There is no qualifier.

The NEA has similar issues with private schools and any chance students may have to leave a failing public school for a successful private one.

“The NEA further believes that voucher plans, tuition tax credits, education savings accounts, and related funding mechanisms undermine support for public education, facilitate racial and socio-economic segregation, and weaken the wall of separation between church and state,” the organization stated.

The NEA called on the Biden administration to:

  • Oppose the enactment of any new voucher program, including education savings accounts and tuition tax credit schemes, or the expansion of existing programs.
  • Repeal the expansion of Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code that permits the use of distributions from education savings plans for qualified elementary and secondary education expenses.
  • Limit use of Coverdell Education Savings Accounts to qualified higher education expenses.
  • Discontinue funding of the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Act. This voucher program authorizes the diversion of $20 million annually to private schools in the District of Columbia; it also offers taxpayers no accountability for the use of the funds and has consistently failed to demonstrate academic effectiveness.
  • Prohibit the disbursement of federal funds to organizations or providers that discriminate on the basis of race, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, disability, national origin, or immigration status.

As for the SOAR Act, this is a program that provides scholarships to low-income children in Washington, D.C. Democrats typically refuse to eliminate any program that offers money to low-income children no matter how effective it is (see: Race to the Top and the Head Start program). The SOAR Act, however, hasn’t been around long enough to be studied completely. A National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance study of the program found that students who were offered and students who were using (an odd distinction to begin with) performed worse in math than students who weren’t offered scholarships, but by year three, those math scores increased for the group offered or using the scholarships and slowed for those not offered them. There are still questions about the long-term effects of the program, as the study only looked at the impacts after three years.

The final bullet point presented by the NEA would target religious schools, particularly Christian private schools that adhere to biblical teachings.

To the surprise of no one, the NEA also demands much more funding for public schools, even though study after study has shown that more money has not resulted in better achievement.

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