Education was a major issue in the recent Virginia gubernatorial election, as parents who were unhappy with their local schools got behind the Republican nominee and his promise to accelerate school choice, and specifically, increasing the number of charter schools.
While there’s a big gap between campaign trail promises and results, the growing consensus that something is not right with our public schools is growing. And joining the push for education alternatives is former New York City mayor, and (briefly) 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg:
Instead of giving students the skills they need to succeed in college or in a trade, the public education system is handing them diplomas that say more about their attendance record than their academic achievement. This harms students, especially those from low-income families. When and if they graduate, they will try to find work in an economy that values knowledge and skills above all else, and their old schools will say to them: “Good luck!”
Other nations are rising to this challenge and racing ahead, but we are moving backward, creating an economic and national-security crisis that will worsen over time. Unless we have the courage to rebuild public education from the bottom up, we will continue to doom our most vulnerable to a life of poverty and, in too many cases, incarceration.
Bloomberg’s answer: expanding charter schools. And he’s willing to put a lot of money behind the idea:
To begin meeting the demand for charters, Bloomberg Philanthropies is launching a five-year, $750 million effort to create seats for 150,000 more children in 20 metro areas across the country.
We will provide seed capital to open new, high-quality charter schools with leadership and staff members that reflect students’ diversity. This investment will also help existing charter schools grow. We will also fund work to strengthen schools’ data systems, train and develop principals and teachers, and study what is working well to develop best practices for the nation.
This initiative builds on the education work our foundation has been doing for years, including programs that train teenagers for trades and other fields that offer well-paid, stable careers that are not easily automated or moved overseas.
Again – there’s a big difference between promises and results. But if Mr. Bloomberg is willing to put considerable resources behind a push for an alternative like charter schools, it bodes well for overall education reform. Competition is good. Even in education. It’s good to see someone else gets it.