Try and reconcile these two facts:
(1) Over 50% of Newark families tried to enroll their child in NorthStar Elementary, a high-performing charter school managed by Uncommon Schools.
(2) In 2014, Ras Baraka ran for mayor of Newark on an education platform that opposed much the superintendent’s “One Newark” plan, which included a significant increase in charter schooling. Baraka won 54% of the vote.
While I don’t know how many of the families who tried to enroll in NorthStar Elementary also voted for Mayor Baraka, I imagine there is substantial overlap.
I also guess there’s a similar patter with the de Blasio election and the 22,000 families who tried to enroll in Success Academies.
It is likely the case that families who are trying to enroll their children in high-performing charter schools are also voting for elected officials who run on anti-charter school platforms.
Why might this be?
First, many families are probably not single issue voters. They might vote for a candidate whose policies they largely support even if they disagree on education.
However, for families who are voting on policy grounds and have their children in public schools, it’s likely that education will be a key issue. So the “other policy considerations” argument probably doesn’t explain everything.
The more powerful explanation, I think, is that most people vote based on identity; they vote for people who they think are like them / share their values / belong to their tribe.
Mayor Baraka’s campaign slogan – “when I become mayor we become mayor” – perfectly captured the fact that he shared a common identity with many people in Newark.
To the extent charter advocates wish to alter these voting patterns, it seems like one of two things needs to happen:
(1) Charter advocates need to mobilize more charter families into single issue voters.
(2) Charter advocates need to align themselves with candidates who share a common identity with charter school families.
Neither will be easy to accomplish.
Mobilization is technically difficult. It is hard to get very busy people with strong identities to vote solely on the basis of one policy issue.
Building broad coalitions is emotionally difficult. It is hard to build relationships and trust with people who are very different from you.
Yet, despite their difficulty, both mobilization and coalition building seem very important to the goal of significantly increasing the number of families who can benefit from high-performing charter schools.
Addendum: Make sure to read Ryan Hill’s good comments. And Seth Andrew’s.