A prodigal son of the charter school sector returned home on Monday, when Senator Cory Booker voiced support for charter schools in the New York Times, a notable shift from his criticism of charter schools back in May.
It was a bold move in some ways, especially given the precariousness of his presidential bid and the inevitable price he will pay with the teachers unions. It was also a strategic move to the middle as centrist Michael Bloomberg joins the race and underdog Pete Buttigieg builds steam.
It’s not hard to see the politics at play, but Booker deserves credit for calling out the Democratic party for being unresponsive to many constituents who support charter schooling. Booker takes fellow Democrats to task for not listening to the families who face “impossible choices” in favor of the more “privileged voices” in the party, a veiled reference to the omnipotent teachers unions, whose favor Senator Elizabeth Warren courted with her anti-charter education plan a few weeks ago.
Recent survey data on charter schools illustrates the misalignment between Democratic Party leadership and many of its key constituent groups, with higher levels of charter school support from African American and Hispanic subgroups than from Democrats and teachers.