The charter school movement retains a reputation for being at least nominally politically progressive. This is strange, as the movement entails defunding public institutions and removing public accountability and replacing them with for-profit or not-for-profit-in-name-only institutions, and in doing so causing cuts in stable, unionized public sector jobs. Charter schools are notorious union busters and in some locales have resulted in hugely disproportionate job cuts against black women. The basic assumptions of school “choice” rely on conservative economic arguments – that markets always improve quality. As terrible as Betsy Devos’s appointment to Secretary of Education in the Trump administration may be, it at least helps clarify what should already be obvious: that support for charter schools is conservative on its face.
Here’s a little more evidence for you, concerning school reform darling Success Academy Charter Schools, celebrated for their strong metrics and notorious for their abusive methods in achieving them.
Via my friend and comrade Mindy Rosier, a public school special education teacher and tireless activist, I learned about these financial disclosures from the Mercer Family Foundation, provided by CitizenAudit.org. The Mercer Family Foundation is the funding arm of a secretive, powerful family of reactionary billionaires who have spent the last few years empowering Republicans generally and Donald Trump specifically. And in 2014 they donated $550,000 to Success Academy:
Overall, the Mercer Family Foundation’s donations are a veritable Who’s Who of reactionary conservatism, with large donations going to the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, the George W. Bush Foundation, the Barry Goldwater Institute, the Manhattan Institute…. Breitbart.com also receives key financial backing from the Mercer Family Foundation. What kind of publication is Breitbart?
How does Success Academy justify taking money from people who fund such hateful rhetoric? I don’t know. Betsy Woodruff has written about this connection, pointing out that Donald Trump has become a staunch advocate of charter schools, but otherwise it’s failed to generate much attention. Might be time for an enterprising reporter to pick up the phone.
One way or another, this should be just another clear indication of the obvious: the charter school movement is part of the same conservative movement that brought us Donald Trump.