When Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) recently unveiled his education reform plan, it predictably castigated charter schools, claiming that they were “privatizing public schools.” Sanders joined a long line of leaders who tar charters with the privatization brush. Before, during and after the Los Angeles teachers strike last winter, union President Alex Caputo-Pearl did so repeatedly. “The charter school movement,” he declared, is “a vehicle for billionaires to privatize the system and undermine the public district.”
His teachers constantly repeated the charge. Even Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who represents the Bronx and part of Queens, threw in her two cents, tweeting in support of “these LA teachers striking against privatization.”
National union leaders Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers and Lily Eskelsen García of the National Education Association regularly add to the chorus. From the picket line in Los Angeles, Eskelsen García went so far as to announce that “the billionaires who are behind this [chartering], the venture capitalists, the Wall Street guys, are out to make money on public schools.” (For the record, California outlawed for-profit charters last year.) And in the District of Columbia, Washington Teachers’ Union leaders raised the issue against Chancellor Lewis D. Ferebee during his nomination hearings. “My real concern here is privatization of public education,” Washington Teachers’ Union executive board member Signe Nelson told the D.C. Council.