Whatever the outcome of the presidential election, charter school advocates hope they’ve already emerged as winners.
“McCain and Obama Agree: Expand Public Charter Schools,” declared full-page ads that appeared in capital-city newspapers in Illinois, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, and Ohio in late October. The ads featured an atypical image from a hard-fought campaign: Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama in apparent harmony, with broad smiles and about to shake hands.
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, a Washington-based research and advocacy group, placed the ads, which also ran on CNN.com, targeting the same areas.
The purpose was “to celebrate the fact that the candidates of both parties, in front of 35 million people, talked about their desire to see more high-quality public charter schools,” Nelson Smith, the group’s president, said in reference to the Oct. 16 presidential debate.
“We really thought that was a teachable moment,” he said.
In smaller print, the ad said of the Republican and Democratic nominees: “Senators McCain and Obama differ widely on most issues, but when asked about education in the last debate, they both agreed: high-quality public charter schools are making a difference for students ... and need to be expanded.”
But enthusiasm for the independent public schools is far from unanimous, and a leading presidential “battleground” state is also one of the fiercest battlegrounds for charters.
In Ohio, which the two nominees were still closely contesting just days before the Nov. 4 vote, Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat, has called for a moratorium on new charters.
And Sue Taylor, the president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers, criticized the group’s ad, arguing that it missed a key piece of Sen. Obama’s stance, as outlined in a September speech in Ohio.
“What Senator Obama actually said was, yes, he would support increasing federal dollars, and he would support increasing the number of charters,” she said, “but that was with the caveat that he would hold them accountable and ... those that are not educating our students [would be closed].”
A version of this article appeared in the November 05, 2008 edition of Education Week