Key Coverage

Democrats Once Proposed Tripling Charter Schools. Here’s What’s Changed.

In 2000, Vice President Al Gore ran for president as a Democrat on an education plan that called for tripling the number of the nation’s charter schools —a plan that was mirrored in his party’s platform that year.

Nearly two decades later, many of the busload of politicians seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination are hesitant to say anything positive about charters, and some have sought to distinguish themselves through sharp critiques and even calls for a national moratorium on the publicly funded, privately operated schools. It’s been one of the most notable education talking points in the primary.

A look at the two major parties’ platforms in the years since the first charter school law was passed shows that Democrats first supported charters as an alternative to private school vouchers, which were supported by both Sen. Bob Dole in his 1996 GOP bid for the White House and by former President George W. Bush during his 2000 campaign.

You can see the evolution of the platform language in the chart below and explore the changes for yourself.