Joe Biden leads second-place Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., by 18 points in the Democratic primary race, in part because he commands such a large share of the black vote. Since 40 percent of Democrat primary voters are black, Biden’s rivals are trying to chip away at his standing with African-Americans, criticizing, for example, his past enthusiasm for Bill Clinton’s 1994 crime bill.

But Biden may have just handed his competitors another, more current weapon – his just-released education policy and in particular his opposition to charter schools. Polling shows a racial divide opening up on education, with black Democrats favoring charters by a substantial margin and whites opposed. Indeed, the NAACP appears to be fracturing over its moratorium on charters, as minority parents across the country demand a decent education for their kids.

This could be (and should be) a potent campaign theme. A gutsy rival could go after Biden, who with much fanfare just rolled out an education policy that pandered to the teachers unions and shamefully embraced the status quo in our public schools.


Biden campaign responds to President Trump's criticism, faces questions about 'enthusiasm gap' in 2020 raceVideo

Supporting a system that graduates class after class of minority kids who can’t read or do simple math, who cannot succeed in college or in life, is criminal. Even President Obama briefly stood up to the unions, until they threatened to withhold their support for his reelection in 2012.

Obama knew, as everyone knows, that the impossibility of firing poor teachers, the ignoring of measures of success and a constant push to lower standards – the so-called bigotry of low expectations – destroys opportunity for too many black and brown children.

In his recent address, Biden vowed to throw more money at our public schools, even though insufficient funding is hardly the problem. The U.S. spends 30 percent more per pupil than the average OECD country and yet we fall in the bottom 15th percentile of developed nations in student achievement.

In particular, the former vice president promised to triple the money the federal government allocates to low-income schools, which would allow generous pay hikes for teachers. Nothing could cheer union hearts more or, without changes in how our inner city schools operate, prove less productive.

Biden attacked charters by repeating the traditional complaint that they divert money from public institutions; that is true, but they also produce better results. That’s why more than 50,000 families are wait-listed for charter schools in New York, for instance.

It’s no accident that Biden revealed his education policy at a forum hosted by the American Federation of Teachers, which gave out $34 million in political contributions in 2016, almost all of it going to Hillary Clinton and fellow Democrats. That sum doesn’t include the enormous get-out-the-vote efforts and on the ground organizing the teachers unions provide.

All Democrats are competing for the unions’ endorsement, but Biden needs it more than most, and it showed. Even the liberal Washington Post, said Biden’s “Pitch was as much that of a union booster as of a would-be education president.”

Biden is especially desperate to bring the teachers unions aboard because he was late jumping into the crowded race, and has built only a rudimentary campaign effort. He needs those millions of teachers ringing doorbells and handing out flyers because he hasn’t got much of a team. The Des Moines Register reports that in Iowa, for instance, Joe Biden has four paid campaign staffers while rival Elizabeth Warren has over 50 and Bernie Sanders’ “Army” claims 20,000 volunteers.

Biden’s late entry and weak campaign apparatus may be just the beginnings of his problems. Though he still commands a lead in the crowded field, the gap has shrunk from a few weeks ago.

In his recent address, Biden vowed to throw more money at our public schools, even though insufficient funding is hardly the problem. The U.S. spends 30 percent more per pupil than the average OECD country and yet we fall in the bottom 15th percentile of developed nations in student achievement.

But Biden’s decline has been (inevitably) exacerbated by his near-invisibility, his failure to divulge his policies and by questions raised over his past positions. Now his rivals can go after his education approach as well, and especially his out-of-touch stance on charters.

The NAACP has opposed charter schools as a matter of policy but their unity on the topic is showing cracks. In recent weeks, NAACP branches in three California cities with large black populations bucked the national organization and their state’s leadership by demanding an end to the moratorium on charters that the group adopted in 2016.

In pressing their case, the dissonant NAACP group wrote in a resolution that “In the top 10 California school districts with the highest enrollment of African-American students – including San Diego, San Bernardino and Moreno Valley Unified in Riverside County – the average achievement gap on state test scores for black students is 14.5 percentage points in English and 15.2 percentage points in math.” Further, the resolution states that “there are only ten public schools in California with majority African American student enrollment that perform in the top half of statewide performance in ELA and math and eight of those schools are charter public schools…”

The resolution calls for the NAACP to recognize the importance of quality public education and the importance of parent choice.

Boom! That is a slap in the face of the status quo, and by implication, the teachers' unions who so adamantly oppose reforms of any kind and especially those instituted in successful charter schools. That is a slap in the face of Joe Biden.


It is not easy to oppose the wealthy and powerful teachers unions. Just ask former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who successfully broke their stranglehold in his state at a great political cost. But it could help distinguish Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J. (once a charter advocate) or John Hickenlooper or another candidate from the crowd. And, it’s the right thing to do.

As Trump might say, “What do they have to lose?”


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