Friday, March 24, 2023

Presidential Candidates Do Not Think All Families Are Created Equal

I’m starting to notice a trend among the presidential candidates. I don’t think they’re vying to be a president who represents all Americans, just some. It sounds crazy but hear me out. 

When Democratic frontrunners lavish attention on traditional public schools to the exclusion of charters, privates, and homeschoolers, it’s as if the worth of a child instantly plummets the moment they are enrolled in a disfavored school. As if their families don’t pay taxes and aren’t worthy as voters. Never mind the fact that many of the candidates have taken advantage of these same options. 

Not to be outdone, President Trump got in on the action when he released a budget that cut funding for charter schools but increased funding for privates. Some of his supporters have told me not to worry because 1) a president’s budget is a fictional thing, and 2) the funding for charter schools is just being bundled together with other programs. It’s called “block granting” and that’s a good thing because it can give states the flexibility to use the money in a way that makes sense for their local context. 

That sounds great in theory until you consider the fact that flexibility in a state like California, the largest charter system in America, could easily fall victim to union politics. Handing over charter school money would be a financial love letter to a fickle governor, one that would give him Thanos-like powers to snap his fingers and freeze charters startups.

But maybe I’m making too much of this. 

The candidates would respond to me by saying they aren’t proposing the elimination of charter schools. They just want to slow their growth. And, the block-granting of federal funds isn’t the end-all of charter funding. And, after all, maybe there is more to life than charters. Most of the candidates are proposing enormous new investments that will grow school staff and provide more services to kids. 

Who can complain about that? I can. 

Yes, research shows that money matters in public education, but some of the nation’s biggest spenders are still hot zones of poor achievement and unacceptable results. Teachers unions and their allies have cleverly called for things like “community schools” as a main investment. It sounds good until you consider the fact that many of the existing community schools need help. Lots of it. 

And no matter how much you wrap kids in services, it will still be a problem that our nation’s teachers aren’t recruited from the top of the class, their preparation is trash, and the support of many of those who teach in the toughest schools is nonexistent. To cover this with “I-stand-with-teachers” happy talk is to prove oneself incapable of true leadership.

WE NEED SOMEONE WHO WILL FIGHT FOR EVERY AMERICAN CHILD EQUALLY.We need a leader who will stand up for all families. We need someone who will fight for every American child equally. Today, parents from around the country are headed to South Carolina in hopes of meeting with presidential candidates to urge them to bring about “big, bold changes.” Because the fact is, every child deserves a better education, and our current system isn’t offering that. 

We need people who can bring us together rather than continuing the bad practice of pitting parents against each other, then siding with the groups that want one form of schooling to be the only form of schooling.

Which leader is that? 

I’m looking.

This is piece is part of a weekly series entitled “How Are the Children”—it first ran here at Education Post.

Chris Stewart
Chris Stewart is the Chief Executive Officer of brightbeam. He is a lifelong activist and 20-year supporter of nonprofit and education-related causes.


  1. In the Biblical scriptures, metaphor was very useful at times to bring clarity. I would like to offer a metaphorical analysis of this very complicated issue. The larger the ship, the more time it takes to turn the ship. The public school system is a really big ship. As much as you, Chris, and I and many others would like to see charter schools enter into exponential growth to serve the immediate needs of alot of kids, steps must be taken that will allow the ship’s turn to progress to completion. More of the ship’s crew must come to recognize the need to turn the ship and then participate in supporting that action.

    Turning the education ship is certainly a process. It is intentionally made very complicated by most of the ship’s officers (teachers unions, bloated education administrative bureaucracy etc.) who are in the ears of the crew (American people) with repeated rhetoric of “the ship is doing great.” What must happen is for those officers to be held accountable for their corruption, while “all” the crew are allowed to finally hear the truth over rhetorical deception. I believe this is where block grants can (must) play a vital role.

    When federal funding is provided to school districts specifically for charter schools, the message the crew hears over the ship’s pa system is “charter schools are important because top commanders think so.” Most of the crew don’t think any more about it, which then allows officers to covertly that funding to serve their own personal interests feeding existing education bureaucracy. The ship does not turn as it must, just as there continues to be insufficient accountability of officer’s actions.

    Here is where block grants come in. If those officers receive federal funding in the form of block grants, and they allocate those funds to just feed their fat bureaucracy as they will do, then cause and effect becomes more clear and easily communicated. The focus is on officers, not the few top commanders (DeVoss, Trump). Cause (officer’s actions) are clearly tied to consequences (kids not learning) and this message will broadcast loud over the ship’s pa without so much interference from ed. bureaucracy. The crew will hear and understand. Then, as current statistics suggest, most of the crew will support turning the ship as needed.

    I encourage you to hang in their Chris – patience my man, patience. Truth will prevail. We have reason to believe the commanders at the top are in like mind with us. They know what they are doing as they negotiate through the very complicated task of bringing accountability, and then be able to turn the ship and follow a new direction that will truly improve education for kids….with all hands on deck.


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