Charter schools used to be a bipartisan education reform, but Democrats have turned against it of late. Many of their complaints are bad-faith projections—criticism for problems that aren’t unique to charters but endemic throughout the public education system.
Take the objection that charters are an insufficiently transparent use of public dollars. In rolling out his education policy last May, Bernie Sanders charged that “charter schools are led by unaccountable, private bodies.” His campaign website promises he’ll make charters “comply with the same oversight requirements as public schools” and impose a moratorium on public funding for expanding charters. In an August interview with Education Week, Pete Buttigieg said “we want to see considerably more oversight” of charter schools.
Charters are governed differently from traditional district schools—usually, but not always, they sit outside of school-district control. Though for-profit charter schools exist in some states, the overwhelming majority are run by nonprofit organizations overseen by boards of directors, operating under contracts granted by a local or state authority.