Charter Market Share Moves in One Direction


I just read Will Marshall’s “How to Save the Democratic Party from Itself” (HT John Arnold).

Will’s piece is longer than it needed to be. You can skim it and get the gist. His basic point is Democrats need to capture more of the center to build a governing majority. This is not a novel strategy. Bill Clinton did it before. Perhaps it will happen again. Hilary Clinton may well determine if it does. George Bush’s brother might determine if she succeeds or not.

Democracy for the win.

More pertinent to this blog: just as political parties need a strategy to build a winnable coalition, so do political ideas.

Unlike many education reform ideas, charter schooling is a political idea that appears to be supported by a sustainable coalition.

To date, the coalition includes: far right + center right + center left.

This coalition has been remarkably stable.

How stable?

Since the first charter school opened in 1992, 100% of presidents of the United States of America have supported their growth (Clinton, Bush, Obama). This streak will likely continue with the next president.

The federal charter school funding program was first passed in 1994. It has been consistently funded ever since. In 2014, $250,000,000 in federal funds was allocated to support charter school growth. The House just voted 360-45 to raise this to $300,000,000.

Additionally, public opinion polls consistently find charter school achieving 55-65% support ratings.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, charter school market share generally only moves in one direction: up.

I can think of no major city in the United States that has seen a major reduction in charter school market share over a five year period.

Not one.

This is rather remarkable.

Last year, nationally, charter school market share grew by 10%.

All this being said, there are potential fissures in this coalition. The national right is often more supportive of charter schools than the local right. When a school system is the largest employer in a Republican’s district, charter school growth is very easily negotiated away. Additionally, the center left’s on and off again relationship with teachers unions presents another potential fissure.

But twenty years of consistent growth should not be ignored. Nor should getting 360 votes in the House in an era marked by hyper partisanship.

All told, it is highly likely that the charter sector will continue to grow.

Of course, this growth will only be of note if charter schools perform. Or, more specifically, if the great charter schools are allowed to expand, and the worst lose the privilege to serve students.

But, again, it is worth noting – to date, charter market share has moved in one direction: up.

1 thought on “Charter Market Share Moves in One Direction

  1. Pingback: The Politics of Populism, Identity, and Charter Schools | relinquishment

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