Beto O'Rourke

Beto Called Charter Schools a 'Good Idea' in 2012. He Was Right.

The presidential candidate suggested at the time that charter schools and traditional public schools can coexist.


|||Everett Collection/Newscom
Everett Collection/Newscom

Beto O'Rourke voiced support for charter schools when he was running for Congress in 2012. Now that he's running for president, will he stand by that statement?

"I think charter schools are a good idea," the Texas Democrat during in a primary debate. "They encourage competition. They encourage innovation in the classroom, and they're a laboratory for some of the best ideas and concepts in public education today."

O'Rourke suggested that charter schools, which are privately run and publicly funded, can coexist with traditional public schools. He added that charter schools can help "encourage a lifelong love of earning—learning, and earning—and intellectual curiosity."

CNN reported O'Rourke's comments on Thursday.

Charter schools have been close to the O'Rourke family. Amy O'Rourke, the candidate's wife, founded La Fe Preparatory School at age 25; the elementary charter school served both English and Spanish speakers in El Paso, Texas. After running that school for five years, Amy moved on. She currently works for the Council on Regional Economic Expansion and Educational Development (CREED). CREED describes itself as a nonprofit group dedicated to "increasing the number of high-performing seats in El Paso's public education system" by "investing in initiatives that are creating measurable outcomes to close the achievement gap for El Paso student." That includes support for charter schools.

Despite his 2012 comments and despite his wife's work history, O'Rourke has worked to minimize the differences between his views on educational policy and those of his fellow Democrats. He's made it clear on several occasions, for example, that he does not support school vouchers. Just last year, while running for Senate, he called school choice "a ploy to funnel funds" into private schools.

America's education debates are plagued by political pressure from schoolteachers and school boards and by misinformation about who benefits from school choice. But the reality is that charter schools tend to have more room to innovate than public schools—and when they fail, they're more likely to be held accountable.

Bonus video: Libertarian businessman Bob Luddy, creator of a charter school, began his own private school to offer an alternative to waste in education.