Haberman: Clinton's Sudden Opposition to Charter Schools A Concern to Democratic Donors

November 22, 2015

Hillary Clinton's criticisms of charter schools are drawing concern from Democratic donors focused on education reform that she is too beholden to union money, New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman said on CNN Sunday.

Clinton, once a supporter of charter schools, said earlier this month that charter schools "don’t take the hardest-to-teach kids, or, if they do, they don’t keep them," putting her at odds with President Obama and her own husband Bill Clinton. Politico reports:

Her comments in South Carolina came straight from charter school critics’ playbook and distanced her from the legacies of her husband, former President Bill Clinton — credited with creating a federal stream of money to launch charters around the country — and President Barack Obama, whose administration has dangled federal incentives to push states to become more charter friendly.

The change in tone on charter schools mirrors other moves Clinton has made to nail down the support of liberal blocs in the face of the progressive challenge of Bernie Sanders, including her recent decision to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And like her reservations about free trade, her new rebuke of charter schools suggests she’ll be less willing to challenge core Democratic constituencies than either her husband or Obama.

Clinton received early support from major teachers' unions opposed to education reform efforts. As Politico reported, teachers' unions often attack charter schools for not hiring unionized teachers.

"One of the few areas of policy disagreement in the Democratic Party at the moment is education reform," Haberman said. "You basically see Democrats united on most fronts, but education reform is a big divide. Hillary Clinton drew some private chatter and ire from some Democratic donors who support Barack Obama's education reform agenda, particularly when it comes to charter schools.

"She gave a comment recently where she was sort of critical of charter schools. It was at odds with what she has said in the past, and there is a lot of concern among this group of Democratic donors about what this means in terms of what a President Clinton will look like. She got very early backing from the unions. She is talking about a lot of their priorities. That is of concern to those who disagree with the unions over the last few years."

"You think it could affect a little bit of money?" Inside Politics host John King asked, rubbing his fingers together.

"I think that, to the extent people feel like they can hold out on her as long as possible, this will be a reason that some will," Haberman said.

Published under: CNN , Hillary Clinton