Recently President Joe Biden made a blistering indictment of the meat industry. The president accused the industry of being a monopoly. Biden boasted about how much he and members of his administration have done to incorporate smaller meat companies into the conversation, making the meat industry more competitive. Biden’s argument against monopolies and the meat industry makes perfect sense. I was elated with the president’s wherewithal to put the needs of the American people first in his attempt to address inflation and price gauging from companies that have monopolies over much-needed products.
Moreover, the United States is currently experiencing a shortage of baby formula. Similar to the meat industry, there are 3 major formula producers in the United States. In a move that overly regulated imports from Mexico and Canada in a Trump negotiated NAFTA trade deal, the Americans can’t go to our neighboring countries and borrow formula. Abbott, a major producer of baby formula recently had a recall, and this served as a tremendous blow to keeping shelves filled with the much-needed formula. As with meat, baby formula is produced by companies that have a monopoly over production. The Biden administration is looking for ways that allow smaller companies to provide American citizens with alternatives to the large companies.
That brings us to the main event, traditional public schools. Traditional public schools have long been a monopoly. Currently, traditional public schools own 90+% of the market share. But unlike the meat and baby formula industry, any move to diversify options for schools is met with harsh resistance. Public charter schools, an alternative to traditional public schools, have become the scapegoat for why traditional public schools are failing. There’s never any accountability on why these schools underperform. Yet, any opportunity pundits for traditional public schools get to bash alternative public schools, they readily accept.
Recently, grassroots activists from all over the country came to Washington, DC to advocate for public charter schools. These students and families were so impassioned about how charter schools have been life-changing. As a current charter school systems leader, I can personally attest to the good public charter schools do for their students. To be in a community with people I follow on social media who I see doing the work was terrific. The parents’ message to Sec. Cardoza and the Biden administration was simple— #Backoff charter schools.
A second message that resonated for me during the protests was the long memory of voters. Many of the people the Biden administration is ostracizing are the very same people that voted him into office. The president and his administration are at a fork in the road. Parents do not want a monopoly as the only educational option for their children. Parents want a choice in where they can send their children to school.
Traditional public schools have been declining for decades. If Biden can stand up to the meat industry, if a bi-partisan congress can be outraged by the lack of baby food options, there should also be bi-partisan support to open up more school options to parents. To think that parents want to continue to send their children to failure mills is one of the largest miscarriages of justice that I have ever seen.
The attitude the administration has towards opening options for small businesses to produce meat and baby formulas should be the same energy politicians bring to supporting schools parents select for their children.
Ray Ankrum is the current Superintendent of the Riverhead Charter School. Mr. Ankrum has gained notoriety as a school turnaround expert. He is enthusiastic about helping students from low (SES) find ways to end generational poverty through educational advocacy. If you believe PoC can end generational poverty by exercising educational opportunities, you have an ally in @Mr_Ankrum.
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