Parents, educators, and students rallied at Lafayette Park outside the White House on Wednesday to protest the Biden administration's proposed regulation restricting federal funding to charter schools.
The rally brought together a sizable and diverse crowd that began the day by delivering a number of comment letters about the regulations to the Department of Education from stakeholders before migrating to the park in front of the White House.
The proposed regulations, released in March, would restrict charter school eligibility for receiving federal charter school funds while mandating a series of community reporting requirements that could further limit otherwise eligible schools from receiving funds.
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Several attendees said that while they had voted for President Joe Biden, the administration's actions on charter schools had elicited feelings of betrayal.
"I feel betrayed by the White House," Sarah Carpenter, a parent from Memphis, Tennessee, told the Washington Examiner. "I thought [Biden] would do something better than what we're seeing. He was for charter schools when he was with the Obama administration. ... What's going on? Does he even know what he's saying? Sometimes, I wonder."
Carpenter said that the Biden administration and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona "don't have a clue" and that the administration "need[s] to listen to our stories."
"Parents matter," Carpenter said. "Our kids are not orphans ... [administration officials] need to listen to the real people that voted for them ... and believed in them ... but now, I don't even believe in them. I don't even want to vote for them anymore."
Carpenter, who is black, was one of dozens of speakers at the rally who touted the success of charter schools in serving the education needs of minority communities. Another speaker, Joe Nathan, the executive director of the charter school advocacy organization Center for School Change, told the crowd that Danielle Frazier, the woman who filmed the 2020 video of George Floyd's arrest, was herself a student at a charter school in Minneapolis.
"She goes to a school where they actively promote youngsters being involved in social justice activities," Nathan said in an interview. "It didn't just happen that that video got taken by her."
The anxiety regarding the regulations from many self-described Biden voters highlighted the blowback the administration has received. Last week, Democratic Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Michael Bennet (D-CO) joined with several Republican senators in urging the administration to make substantial revisions to the proposed rule.
The administration has also been criticized for failing to engage stakeholders properly when it drafted the regulation, as well as restricting the public comment period for the rule to a month.
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"They never consulted with us. They released [the regulation] on March 11 and gave us a month to respond," Nina Rees, the president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, told the Washington Examiner at the rally. "Usually, when you want to engage stakeholders, you do that before you put something out for public comments. So, the timeline was very tight, and the amount of information that they want us to [review] was more than what we expected. Our hope is that they'll take our input into account."