Bernie Sanders recently unveiled his education plan, naming it for the legendary activist, lawyer and Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall. Centering the plan on the man most associated with the famous Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954 signals racial justice as a key priority. Justice Marshall has been our touchstone at the Diverse Charter Schools Coalition and we fiercely believe in that priority. At the same time, we disagree with one key element of his plan- a blanket moratorium on new charter schools would have the opposite effect.
Since 2015 the Diverse Charter Schools Coalition has supported a community of “diverse-by-design” charter schools to achieve excellence in school through diversity and integration. DCSC, an organization created by diverse charter schools, represent the grassroots model of integration that we believe will work in this era. Across the country, students, staff and families are choosing intentionally integrated charters schools because they know it’s the right thing for them as individuals and our society as a whole.
In light of that progress, we are disappointed to see Senator Sanders propose a blanket moratorium on charter school growth. While only one small part of his plan the moratorium has received the most attention in the media. It is also the element of his plan that will single-handedly stop the grassroots innovation that is happening at DCSC member schools now and in the future.
The answer isn’t more choice or less choice, it’s the right kind of choice. Charter schools can contribute to solving the historic challenges of integrating our public school system. We should be, and need to be, a bigger part of the conversation. Working with districts, charter schools can create the possibility of providing more seats in integrated learning environments. Charter schools can and should have a seat at the table when it comes to shaping enrollment across the public school ecosystem. Unfortunately, plans like Sen. Sanders’s shut down the opportunity to collaborate and problem solve and instead enhance division and finger-pointing.
Senator Sanders’s plan states “Recognizing the problems in a one-size-fits-all model of education, teachers’ unions and parent activists established alternative, experimental “charter” schools to better serve kids struggling within the traditional system. But few charter schools have lived up to their promise.” This is a limited view, and not one that reflects the incredible work DCSC member schools are doing to provide students with a high quality, intentionally diverse educational experience. We invite Senator Sanders and his team to come with us to experience first hand the work happening in DCSC member schools. They are bringing the initial vision of charter schools to life everyday; a moratorium on schools like theirs does not help get us closer to Justice Marshall’s vision of racial justice.
Diverse Charter Schools Coalition