Bloomberg’s $750M Grant Is the Jolt the Charter Sector Needs — and a Litmus Test for White Democrats Who Claim to Back School Choice

Andrew Rotherham:

If education reform were a religion, then professing to just “follow the evidence” and “listen to communities” would anchor the liturgy. Charter schools, however, are a curious case that tests the faith. Urban charters have proven to be an effective reform, at scale, and parents in many communities are clearly demanding them. Raise that in a lot of education spaces, though — including among many of the well-heeled who consider themselves reformers or allies — and you’ll be branded a heretic, or at least quietly not invited back to church. That’s why it was so refreshing to see former New York City mayor, media mogul and philanthropist Michael Bloomberg announce a $750 million effort to create more high-quality charter school seats in communities around the country. 

That $750 million that Bloomberg’s foundation plans to spend over five years may seem like a pittance against the backdrop of a system that annually spends 1,000 times that amount, and especially as almost $200 billion in federal COVID aid is working its way through the system. Yet one lesson of decades of education reform is that relatively small amounts of money, well targeted, can leverage more change than larger but diffuse slugs of funding. Bloomberg’s $750 million isn’t small in any real sense — it’s a lot of money, and the kind of commitment that can tangibly change lives — but let’s hope this ends up being a down payment on a longer-term commitment.

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