How big a factor is Trump's school choice support in the LA charter school debate?
Luna Cruz, 9, pushed through the crowd at the teachers union rally in front of her school, Grand View Boulevard Elementary. A teacher had asked if she would speak in front of the gathering — a protest of President Donald Trump on the eve of his inauguration.
The crowd had swelled beyond the "dozens" the union had expected. Hundreds turned out to hear speaker after speaker denounce what they termed Trump's anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric — and also to criticize the president for his nomination of private school voucher and charter school advocate Betsy DeVos for U.S. Secretary of Education, whose confirmation hearing in a U.S. Senate committee is scheduled for Tuesday.
In front of the large crowd, Luna, a fourth grader, couldn't gather the nerve to speak. But later, after the crowds around her west Los Angeles school had begun to disperse, she said this was what she wanted to tell the president:
"It’s not fair that you’re doing this," she said. "You shouldn’t be doing this. You need to stop."
Stop what? "Trying to turn public schools into charters."
President Trump has promised to spend $20 billion on expanding "school choice" — meaning, policies which give students more chances to attend private or charter schools. DeVos, a billionaire philanthropist and prominent Republican donor, was critical in bringing charter schools to her home state of Michigan.
But in deep-blue L.A., some charter school leaders say the Trump administration’s embrace of school choice has complicated the local political debate over charter schools.
They're worried Trump's support at the federal level might prove toxic enough that it ends up helping local opponents of charter schools — publicly-funded schools run, not by a school district, but by an outside organization such as a non-profit.
"It would be much more valuable for me, frankly, if [the president] just said he hates charter schools," said Caprice Young, chief executive officer and superintendent of the Magnolia network of charter schools.
"The fact," Young added, "that Trump supports charter schools gives the opposition to charter schools in California an opportunity to equate charter schools with the things that Trump cares about, that most Californians are opposed to."
"Certainly what’s happening at the national level is trickling down," said California Charter Schools Association spokesman Jason Mandell. "And yes, it does provide How big a factor is Trump's school choice support in the LA charter school debate? | 89.3 KPCC: