New Biden Administration Rules for Charter Schools Spur Bipartisan Backlash

On Wednesday, an estimated 1,000 parents and advocates from across the country rallied at the Education Department and the White House in opposition of the rules.

Malachi Armstrong, the father of a kindergartner who attends a charter school in Philadelphia, was among the participants, who held signs, wore T-shirts with protest messages and repeated chants of “back off our schools.” Mr. Armstrong, who said his child attended a charter school in Philadelphia after his underfunded public school shut down, called the proposed rules “senseless.”

“Charter schools aim to be different,” he said. “They know about the hardships — and I’m sure the Department of Education knows — and how bad public schools can be.”

The rally came on the heels of several high-profile denouncements of the proposed rules, including opinion pieces by Michael R. Bloomberg, the philanthropist billionaire and former New York mayor, and Gov. Jared Polis of Colorado, a Democrat. In a letter sent last week, Senators Dianne Feinstein of California, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Michael Bennet of Colorado joined Republicans in asking the department to revise them.

The Biden administration has maintained level funding of $440 million a year for the federal Charter Schools Program, which has helped finance about half of existing charters, providing grants that help cover a range of start-up costs such as furniture and buses.

But in recent years, President Biden has joined the ranks of Democrats who have cooled to charter schools, which are publicly funded but independently operated. The party had long embraced them as a compromise to taxpayer-financed vouchers for private school tuition, which Republicans support.

As a candidate, Mr. Biden declared that he was not “a charter school fan,” which shocked many given that the schools had proliferated under the charter-friendly Obama administration. On the campaign trail, Mr. Biden vowed to cut off for-profit charters — less than 12 percent of the nation’s 7,700 charter schools — from federal funding.

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