July 19, 2020 - 9:00 pm
When there’s a conflict between the desires of union officials and the needs of students, Joe Biden has made his stance clear. Adults come first.
Earlier this month, Mr. Biden spoke to the National Education Association’s virtual convention. He made sure to highlight that his wife, Jill, is an NEA member.
“When we win this election, we’re going to get the support you need and the respect you deserve,” he said. “You don’t just have a partner in the White House, you’ll have an NEA member in the White House. And if I’m not listening, I’m going to be sleeping alone in the Lincoln Bedroom.”
Mr. Biden’s promises don’t just involve showering more money on the public schools, although he wants to do plenty of that. He has called for a tripling of Title I funding and universal prekindergarten.
What union officials most want, however, is to shut down the competition. Charter schools, which are public schools, are much less likely to be unionized than traditional public schools. The same is true of private schools. When students leave the traditional public school system, it reduces the number of teachers in those schools. That means fewer potential union members, which means fewer dollars collected in dues. That can translate into fewer political contributions, which overwhelmingly go to Democrats.
Mr. Biden is eager to oblige the NEA on this point. He previously stated his opposition to school vouchers. He said in March that he wanted to stop privately run charter schools from receiving federal money. Ironically, Mr. Biden has first-hand experience with choice. He sent his two sons to an elite private high school in Delaware. Next year, its tuition will be $28,800.
Low-income families don’t need anywhere near that much. Charter schools usually receive thousands less per pupil than traditional public schools. Vouchers or tax credit scholarships can improve a child’s education for half the amount public schools spend.
Mr. Biden’s stance is a marked contrast from former President Barack Obama. Mr. Obama never supported school choice — aside from his own daughters attending an elite private school, naturally. But he did push for charter schools. His Race to the Top education initiative incentivized states to allow more charter schools and not restrict enrollment. This was one reason that charter school enrollment more than doubled during his administration, topping 3 million during the last year of his presidency.
Mr. Obama was willing to stray ever so slightly from liberal orthodoxy to help children stuck in low-performing schools. Parents should be aware that Mr. Biden is upfront about his unwillingness to do the same.