education

Do you support the use of public charter schools as an alternative to traditional systems?

No, ban for-profit charters and pause funding for new charters

No, ban for-profit charters and pause funding for new charters

Bernie Sanders

U.S. senator, Vermont

“Recognizing the problems in a one-size-fits-all model of education, teachers’ unions and parent activists established alternative, experimental “charter” schools to better serve kids struggling within the traditional system. But few charter schools have lived up to their promise. Instead, billionaires like DeVos and the Waltons, together with private equity and hedge fund executives, have bankrolled their expansion and poured tens of millions into school board and other local elections with the hope of privatizing public schools,” a campaign spokesperson told The Post. “Charter schools are led by unaccountable, private bodies, and their growth has drained funding from the public school system. The damage to communities caused by unregulated charter school growth must be stopped and reversed. Bernie believes we must make sure that charter schools are accountable, transparent and truly serve the needs of disadvantaged children, not Wall Street, billionaire investors, and other private interests. As president, [Sanders] will ban for-profit charter schools and implement a moratorium on public funds for charter school expansion until a national audit has been completed to determine the impact of charter growth in each state. That means halting the use of public funds to underwrite new charter schools. The truth is, we do not need two schools systems; we need to invest in our public schools system. That said, existing charter schools must be made accountable by mandating that charter schools comply with the same oversight requirements as public schools.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Bernie Sanders
Sanders

Ban for-profits and increase accountability

Ban for-profits and increase accountability

Michael Bennet

U.S. senator, Colorado

“I support high-quality, nonprofit charter schools that offer choices for families, spur innovation, and most importantly, improve outcomes for students. I do not support private, for-profit charter schools. Charter school authorization is a local decision,” Bennet told The Post.

Candidate positions highlighted
Michael Bennet
Bennet

Joe Biden

Former vice president

Biden supports banning for-profits and increasing accountability, a campaign spokesperson told The Post.

Candidate positions highlighted
Joe Biden
Biden

Cory Booker

U.S. senator, New Jersey

“While not all charters are good, public, non-profit charter schools should be an option in some places,” Booker told The Post. “As mayor of Newark, I closed poor-performing charter schools. My education reforms have borne fruit and, in fact, today Newark is leading the country in so-called “beat the odds schools,” meaning schools that are high performance despite having many of their students living in poverty.” Booker supports a ban on for-profit charter schools, his campaign told The Post.

Candidate positions highlighted
Cory Booker
Booker

Tim Ryan

U.S. representative, Ohio

“I am committed to investing in our country’s public schools. The education of our children should be one of the main priorities of the next President of the United States, and that means a strong, robust well funded ... public school system. For the families and children who attend charter schools, they deserve a charter school system that promotes transparency and is held accountable to make sure every student is receiving the best education,” Ryan told The Post. “That is why I pushed legislation that would increase transparency and oversight of the U.S. charter school system. I support efforts to eliminate for-profit charter schools, for too long these schools have put profit over education. The most recent reauthorization of the ESEA strengthens the accountability and transparency within the charter school program, but that is only a first step. As a country, we need strict regulations and oversight.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Tim Ryan
Ryan

Elizabeth Warren

U.S. senator, Massachusetts

“I think we should ban for-profit charters and charters that outsource their operations to for-profit companies and I have publicly opposed the expansion of charter schools in Massachusetts,” Warren told The Post.

Candidate positions highlighted
Elizabeth Warren
Warren

Yes, but increase accountability

Yes, but increase accountability

Steve Bullock

Governor, Montana

“I support limited public funding for charter schools that offer necessary alternatives to conventional educational methods, as long as those public charter schools have oversight from public boards of education,” Bullock told The Post.

Candidate positions highlighted
Steve Bullock
Bullock

John Hickenlooper (Dropped out)

Former governor, Colorado

Hickenlooper is no longer running for president. “Yes, I believe that high-performing and accountable public charter schools have a role in public education,” Hickenlooper told The Post. “I support limits on charter schools based on performance but not an across-the-board moratorium. I personally oppose efforts to give taxpayer dollars to for-profit charter schools. However, I also believe that this is a decision to be made by each local school district.”

Candidate positions highlighted
John Hickenlooper
Hickenlooper

Beto O'Rourke

Former U.S. representative, Texas

“Beto believes public funds should be used for public schools,” a campaign spokesperson told The Post. “He opposes using public funding for for-profit charter schools or private school vouchers. Beto believes that any public charter schools that are currently operating should be subject to the same standards and accountability as other public schools.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Beto O'Rourke
O'Rourke

Joe Sestak

Former U.S. representative, Pennsylvania

“I accept them, but with strong accountability measures to ensure they are successful, including full inclusion of students on the basis of special needs,” O'Rourke told The Post.

Candidate positions highlighted
Joe Sestak
Sestak

Unclear/no response

Unclear/no response

Pete Buttigieg

Mayor, South Bend, Ind.

Buttigieg did not provide an answer to this question.

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Pete Buttigieg
Buttigieg

Julian Castro

Former mayor, San Antonio

Castro did not provide an answer to this question.

Candidate positions highlighted
Julian Castro
Castro

Bill de Blasio (Dropped out)

Mayor, New York City

de Blasio is no longer running for president. De Blasio did not provide an answer to this question.

Candidate positions highlighted
Bill de Blasio
de Blasio

John Delaney

Former U.S. representative, Maryland

Delaney did not provide an answer to this question.

May. 13: “Charter Schools are public schools (this point is often misunderstood) and in many places they have provided important innovation within the public schools system.”

Candidate positions highlighted
John Delaney
Delaney

Tulsi Gabbard

U.S. representative, Hawaii

Gabbard did not provide an answer to this question.

Candidate positions highlighted
Tulsi Gabbard
Gabbard

Kirsten Gillibrand (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, New York

Gillibrand is no longer running for president. Gillibrand did not provide an answer to this question.

Candidate positions highlighted
Kirsten Gillibrand
Gillibrand

Kamala D. Harris

U.S. senator, California

Harris did not provide an answer to this question.

Candidate positions highlighted
Kamala Harris
Harris

Jay Inslee (Dropped out)

Governor, Washington state

Inslee is no longer running for president. Inslee did not provide an answer to this question.

Candidate positions highlighted
Jay Inslee
Inslee

Amy Klobuchar

U.S. senator, Minnesota

Klobuchar did not provide an answer to this question.

Candidate positions highlighted
Amy Klobuchar
Klobuchar

Seth Moulton (Dropped out)

U.S. representative, Massachusetts

Moulton is no longer running for president. Moulton did not provide an answer to this question.

Candidate positions highlighted
Seth Moulton
Moulton

Tom Steyer

Billionaire activist

Steyer did not provide an answer to this question.

Candidate positions highlighted
Tom Steyer
Steyer

Marianne Williamson

Author

“Both, as long as the money does not come from current public-school budgets,” Williamson told The Post. “I support flexibility in public school pilot schools which can have different approaches to education to meet the needs of different learning styles of students. However, I am not open to it if it takes money from current school budgets.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Marianne Williamson
Williamson

Andrew Yang

Tech entrepreneur

Yang did not provide an answer to this question. “Let me be clear, I am pro good school,” he said at the third Democratic debate.

May. 17: “Castigating all public schools or all charter schools does educators a massive disservice by calling into question the work they do with our kids every day. We should be looking to make all of their jobs easier by putting resources into both schools and households.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Andrew Yang
Yang

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Background For many years, public charter schools have been the most popular form of school choice among Democrats, a way to give children in low-performing schools alternatives while keeping the money in the public system. President Barack Obama and his education secretary, Arne Duncan, were big proponents of charter schools. But the party has moved away, partly in response to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, an enthusiastic supporter of school choice, who is deeply unpopular among Democrats. Today, many Democrats who have supported charter schools will emphasize opposition to for-profit versions.

How candidate positions were compiled

The Washington Post sent a detailed questionnaire to every Democratic presidential campaign asking whether it supports various changes to U.S. education policy. Candidates with similar stances were organized into groups using a combination of those answers, legislative records, action taken in an executive role and other public comments, such as policy discussion on campaign websites, social media posts, interviews, town hall meetings and other news reports. See something we missed? Let us know.

We expect candidates to develop more detailed policy positions throughout the campaign, and this page will update as we learn more about their plans. We also will note if candidates change their positions on an issue.

At initial publication, this page included major candidates who had announced a run for president or an exploratory committee. Wayne Messam, mayor of Miramar, Fla., reported $0 in spending during the 3rd quarter of 2019. As a result, he is no longer considered a "major candidate" in the Post's 2020 coverage and has been removed from this project.

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