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Biden’s political hacks won’t stop charter schools’ growth

Editor’s Note: The Bluegrass Beacon is a weekly syndicated newspaper column posted on the Bluegrass Institute’s website after being published by newspapers statewide.

While the Supreme Court obviously wanted to keep its Roe v. Wade conversation confidential, President Joe Biden is making no secret of his disdain for public charter schools.

Much to the delight of teachers’ union bosses, Biden’s administration is quickly becoming history’s most anti-(school) choice political pack, demonstrated most recently in its proposals to make charter schools’ access to federal funding more difficult.

Among the proposal’s absurd requirements: charter schools applying for federal dollars would be forced to prove that local public schools are over-enrolled.

The hidden trick here is traditional public school enrollment is currently falling while research by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools finds enrollment in charter schools during the pandemic grew by nearly a quarter million students – a 7% increase nationwide.

Thus, this one Biden rule, would by itself essentially shut down federal support for charters.

But parents want options.

Aside from charter school growth, homeschooling rates grew from 5.4% to more than 11% just between March 2020 and September 2020, according to the Associated Press’s analysis of census data.

But Kentucky’s parents discovered there weren’t many choices for them, helping create a successful push during this year’s General Assembly to pass legislation funding public charter schools and pilot programs.

Many of these parents are minorities whose children are at greater risk of falling through the cracks in a traditional public education system that fails them disproportionately.

Perhaps nowhere in the country displays this failure like Kentucky.

According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), otherwise known as the Nation’s Report Card, only 14% of Kentucky’s Black fourth grade students read at a level of acceptable proficiency in 2019.

Meanwhile, recent NAEP report cards indicate that Black students in charter schools in places like Georgia, Cleveland and the District of Columbia are attaining reading proficiency at dramatically higher rates than their fellow Blacks in non-charters.

Though some limitations exist when using NAEP data, the evidence that charters are stepping up for our nation’s minority students and the implications of such achievement are simply too strong to ignore, especially considering Kentucky’s failure to close gaps and improve its performance.

In Georgia, for example, Blacks in charter schools scored 225 on the NAEP’s fourth-grade reading assessment in 2019, compared to a score of only 204 achieved by their fellow Black students in Georgia’s traditional public schools, and an even lower 197 for their Black counterparts in Kentucky’s traditional public schools.

If, as education researchers believe, each 10 NAEP Scale Score points is equivalent to a full extra year of learning, then Blacks in Georgia’s charter schools outperformed their racial counterparts in traditional public schools in both the Peach and Bluegrass states by more than two extra years of learning.

The incredible performance by Georgia’s Black charter school students is also helping these innovative public schools close gaps between Blacks and whites.

In a stunning example, Blacks in Georgia’s charter schools in 2019 scored precisely the same as Kentucky’s white students in NAEP reading results.

The best tactic for charter school supporters is to ignore Washington’s out-of-touch opponents of educational liberty.

Idiotic rules by leftist politicians, their teachers-union pals and the Beltway’s bloated education bureaucracy won’t stop the growth of charters since most of these schools’ funding comes from state and local sources rather than federal coffers.

What cannot be ignored, however, is the promise of a brighter future and better life charters are offering many of our nation’s most at-risk kids.

Also not to be ignored: Kentucky’s at-risk kids don’t have the same opportunity as their peers in other states.

It’s time for that to change.

Fortunately, Biden and his political hacks can do little to stop it.

Jim Waters is president and CEO of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free market think tank. Reach him at and @bipps on Twitter.

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