“I would say that education choice is a double-edged sword,” said Steve Evangelista, a co-founder of Harlem Link, a charter elementary school. “We as the charter-school sector and the education community need to understand the damage that choice can cause.”
Evangelista and others in the sector also disagree with DeVos’s apparent stance on charter-school regulation, which she fought in her home state of Michigan.
James Merriman, the CEO of the New York City Charter School Center, did not comment publicly on DeVos, but he wrote an op-ed in the New York Daily News after Trump’s election on the importance of maintaining strong charter-school oversight instead of “simply growing the sector for growth’s sake.”
“A high-quality charter-school sector is only possible when sound policy takes precedence over ideology,” Merriman wrote. “The bedrock of chartering isn’t that the marketplace or even choice will make good schools, as some Republicans, perhaps Trump included, seem to think.”
The DeVos family poured over a million dollars into legislative races when lawmakers were considering more charter-school oversight in Detroit. Her work drew criticism for creating a “Wild West” policy environment and allowing failing charters to survive.
The charter sector in Michigan, which has an unprecedented number of for-profit charter schools, looks nothing like the sector in New York. In Michigan, there are many charter-school authorizers, some of which are strict while others are more lax, said Michael Petrilli, the president of the conservative-learning Thomas Fordham Institute.
“There is a sense that in Detroit, nobody is in charge,” Petrilli said. That contrasts with New York, which has a small number of authorizers focused on school quality, he said.
Having a school-choice advocate associated with Trump also puts New York City’s sector in a bind. Particularly in the wake of the NAACP’s call for a moratorium on charter schools, some in the sector are trying to win progressive support, rather than squander it.
New York City’s charter schools serve many low-income students of color, some of whom feel anxious and angry about the rhetoric Trump used during his campaign. Moskowitz’s pledge to support Trump’s education efforts drew protesters outside her Harlem home.
“Some of it is probably guilt by association,” said Aaron Pallas, a professor at Columbia University’s Teachers College. “You still have a president-elect who is viewed by many as having egged on and promoted racist and otherwise offensive points of view among his supporters.”
Still, some national and regional charter-school groups have expressed support for DeVos. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools sent a congratulatory release, and Andrea Rogers, the New York state director of the Northeast Charter Schools Network, sent a statement saying she is “glad to see another charter supporter take the reins.”