Trailing Joe Biden in the polls, Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders on Saturday unveiled an education plan intended to protect hidebound teachers unions and to ensure low-income children remain trapped in failing schools. The Vermont socialist didn’t put it that way, of course. But that’s what his “Thurgood Marshall Plan for Public Education” would accomplish.
Sen. Sanders would vastly expand the federal education bureaucracy to attack a whole host of perceived ills, many involving supposed racial or gender discrimination against both students and teachers. He would turn the nation’s public schools into one-stop social service community centers to help students and parents become more dependent on the federal government.
Not surprisingly, the 10-point manifesto fits nicely with the Sanders’ campaign theme of “free stuff.” It promises free student lunches even during summer break, free college prep tests, free teen centers, free after-school or summer programs, free job training, free health and support services … and on and on. He also proposes teacher raises, increased protections for students in the country illegally, a minimum federal per-pupil outlay and expanded collective bargaining and tenure protections for unions.
Of particular note, Sen. Sanders seeks to neuter the charter school movement, the most viable alternative path for many parents and students confined to inferior neighborhood public schools. His program would put a moratorium on new charters and intentionally undermines the very reason charter campuses exist by shackling them to the traditional regulatory and union environment.
“The proliferation of charter schools,” Sen. Sanders wrote, “has disproportionately affected communities of color.”
Earth to comrade Bernie: In many communities of color, charter schools represent the only viable alternative to public schools riddled with pathologies. Polls increasingly show that African-American and Hispanic parents favor expanding educational alternatives for their children. “There’s a sharp racial divide among Democrats on charter schools,” the website chalkbeat.org reported last week. While gentry progressives such as Sen. Sanders work to protect education unions from competition, plenty of less-privileged parents see school choice as integral to providing their children with increased opportunities to succeed.
Sen. Sanders’ education recipe is the same, warmed-over gruel peddled for decades by the very special interests that have supervised the steady decline of the nation’s public schools. Consider that nowhere in Sen. Sanders’ plan is there any mention of academic achievement. Nor is there a peep about holding the entrenched education establishment accountable for results. That’s all you need to know about where Sen. Sanders stands on education.