For Democrats and Republicans alike, charter schools have long provided a happy compromise between vouchers for religious schools and no school choice at all. Charters give families an alternative schooling option but remain publicly funded, secular institutions authorized by government agencies. They have been warmly endorsed by Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump.
Unfortunately, the aura of bipartisanship surrounding the charter movement suffered heavy collateral damage during and after the intense battle over Betsy DeVos’s confirmation as Trump’s secretary of education. The NAACP and other civil rights groups called for a moratorium on the formation of new charter schools, despite the fact that black and Hispanic children are more likely to attend and benefit from charter schools than are white children.
As these highly publicized events unfolded, the share of the public who answered yes when asked whether they support “the formation of charter schools” fell from 65 percent in 2016 to an all-time low of 52 percent in the spring of 2017, according to annual polls conducted by Education Next and administered by the Harvard Program on Education Policy and Governance. This 13-point free fall was especially dramatic because charters had previously garnered high, steady levels of support.