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The Gaslighting of Progressive Charter School Proponents

Wealthy, white educrats who’ve made millions off schools continue to demoralize and undercut the work of charter school supporters and families

Last week, former principal Carol Burris (whose Twitter feed is an unending charter-school-bashing, propaganda-filled rant) blasted out a blatantly misleading meme intended to delude Democratic voters.

Intended as a defensive play to counter the deluge of bad press stemming from policies antagonistic to charter schools, which many Democrats of color see as a critical public option for their children, Burris is eager to enact her best Diane Ravitch impersonation and paint these parents as “corporate” or misinformed.

Responding to a recent poll which finds “only 11 percent of likely voters said they were more apt to support a candidate who would eliminate funding” for charter schools, Burris didn’t dig into the details before tweeting. With just a bit of reading, she’d have found that support is even stronger among voters of color.

AFC 2020 Poll

Of course, Burris is about as interested in truth as she is in discussing the funders of the Network for Public Education (NPE) union front group she heads, or in publishing academically factual research. In Trumpian fashion, she maintains an inverse relationship between the truth and volume of tweets.

Thankfully, the internet keeps receipts. As reported by The Texas Tribune, “Appearing at a town hall organized by the American Federation of Teachers, the former vice president continued to find himself in friendly company as he fielded questions from the audience, including one on charter schools,” to which he responded:

I do not support any federal money … for for-profit charter schools — period. The bottom line is it siphons off money from public schools, which are already in enough trouble.

As this site has covered previously, this is a blatant red herring as only 12 percent of charters are for-profit, existing only in Wisconsin, California, Michigan and Arizona. People like Burris purposefully spew this rhetoric to mislead the public into thinking that charters are somehow “stealing” public dollars—rather than believing those dollars belong to students and families instead of systems and schools.

Maybe you don’t believe The Texas Tribune? Here’s some video evidence:

Biden sure seems hell bent on undoing the hard work of his former boss and secretaries of education, risking alienation of the Black vote he relies so heavily on. Hence the Burris tweet.

Turning to Warren, dispelling Burris’s lie is more straightforward. A bullet point in Warren’s “A Great Public School Education for Every Student” plan reads: “As President, I would eliminate this charter school program and end federal funding for the expansion of charter schools. I would also examine whether other federal programs or tax credits subsidize the creation of new charter schools and seek to limit the use of those programs for that purpose.”

That Warren and Biden chose to send their own children to fancy private schools is well documented. Warren was caught in that fib recently when explaining her anti-charter school policies to parents chanting, “Our voice! Our choice!” Wealthy, powerful Democrats have no problem exercising educational choice for their own children, even when it costs $30,000+ per year.

What they are willing to do is sacrifice the educational opportunities of marginalized parents in exchange for the support and dollars of the NEA and AFT. And it would seem that Carol Burris’ literal day job is making sure that sacrifice is both easy and appealing for any Democrat, by hammering endlessly on tired and misleading tropes about charter school corruption.

Speaking as a parent of color myself, I can tell you the impact of Burris’s anti-charter talking points. Both she and Ravitch talk down to us, telling us we are either misinformed, stupid or both. Even once we research her cherry-picked examples and realize that they don’t represent all or even most charter schools or the families who choose them, the stain of her constant barrage of negativity and tribalism is a clear form of gaslighting.

Their constant targets are those of us who support charter schools because of the revelatory options they can provide for so many children who have been marginalized by a rigged and intransigent system. We aren’t buying the misinformation.

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Written by Seth Saavedra

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