Presidential Myths

In recent weeks my book, Zero Chance of Passage: The Pioneering Charter School Story, came up in a strange context in national blogposts. Bloggers noted that I described President Bill Clinton as a “powerful advocate for the chartering movement from the beginning.” They noted that President Clinton endorsed my book as a “fascinating and detailed account of the bipartisan movement to revive the American education system.” They noted that Hillary Clinton as first lady publicly applauded chartering.

So why, they asked, is Hillary Clinton, now a presidential candidate, making critical comments of chartering after years of support?

I understand the politics around chartering. I’ll admit I’m disappointed, as I never expected this turnaround. But I’m most disappointed that Secretary Clinton, known for her strong grasp of facts and her in-depth preparation, resorted to chartering myths, not facts.

Nina Rees, CEO of the National Alliance of Charter Public Schools, responded with contrary data that bear repeating. I write to dispel Hillary’s presidential myth that charter schools don’t serve the “hard to teach” students. Check this out:

  • There is no difference in the percentage of English Language Learner ELL students served between charter and non-charter public schools.
  • 37% of charter schools have at least 75% of their students in poverty as compared to 23% of non-charter schools.
  • Nationally, in the 2013-14 school year, charter schools served a higher-percentage of low-income students (57%)—than district-run schools (52%)—and had better outcomes.
  • 2015 NAEP scores show that in Los Angeles, there was dramatically better student performance in charter schools than with district-run schools. Proficiency rates tripled those of non-charter schools. Los Angeles charter school demographics are 75% low-income students and 85% students of color.
  • In NYC, charter public schools do a better job of retaining students with disabilities than their non-charter public school counterparts.


I’m on a mission to dispel the myths of chartering. Let’s capitalize on this opportunity to debunk those myths on the national stage. It is the only way we’ll accurately inform the future of chartering.