Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren used to be a Republican, a Native American and pro-school choice. Now she is a Democrat, a Caucasian and anti-choice teacher union suck-up.
As I wrote back in May, the Democratic presidential contenders were battling each other fiercely to score the endorsement of the nation’s teachers unions. The anointment comes with cash, free ads and hordes of activists ready to rumble. As of now, it would seem that Elizabeth Warren is the candidate most intent on securing the prize.
Not a lifelong über-prog, Warren has traveled a long and tangled road to get to her exalted position. In the early 1990s, she was a registered Republican. Then, in 1993, claiming she was Native American, Harvard Law School offered her a “highly coveted tenured professor job.” Harvard spokesman Mike Chmura gushed that she was the first woman of color to be given tenure at the institution. (A 2018 DNA test revealed that she’s about as Native American as my dog Molly. Maybe less.)
Additionally, Warren used to be ardently pro-school choice. “Fully funded vouchers would relieve parents from the terrible choice of leaving their kids in lousy schools or bankrupting themselves to escape those schools,” Warren wrote in her 2004 book, “The Two Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Parents are Going Broke.”
But, she has evolved! Her current education plan is a teacher unionista dream. Contrary to what the edu-whiners will tell you, we are among the top education spenders in the world. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, we spent $705 billion nationwide on education in 2015-2016. Not good enough for Warren. Her idea is to more than double that by pouring another $800 billion into k-12 education, paid for by a “wealth tax.”
Just as obscene as Warren’s spending (and of course the tax hikes that go with it) is her strident anti-charter school stance. She wants to end the federal Charter Schools Program, a national source of support for public charter schools. In her own words: “To keep our traditional public school systems strong, we must resist efforts to divert public funds out of traditional public schools,” adding that charter schools “strain the resources of school districts and leave students behind, primarily students of color.” She insists that existing charter schools should face more aggressive oversight and be held to the same accountability standards as traditional public schools.
Traditional public schools are accountable? Charters are to blame for students of color being left behind? Warren obviously has gone full union monty.
American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten cooed that Warren’s extravagant spending and charter school animosity is “transformational.” A trip by Warren to the Chicago picket lines, where thousands of public school teachers are on strike, added to her union cred. With Weingarten by her side, she shrieked, “I’m here to stand for America’s public schools. I’m here to stand with Chicago’s teachers. I’m here to stand with Chicago nurses. I’m here to stand with Chicago’s ….” All this, but little for the kids who aren’t standing, but instead sitting at home as their teachers are too busy striking to instruct them.
Of course, it’s easy to understand Warner’s suck-up to the unions. She has accepted thousands of dollars from them over the years in campaign contributions, and needs to keep the cash a-coming.
However she should consider toning down the stridency, as she surely will run up against some grass roots resistance. According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, 58 percent of black voters and 52 percent of Hispanic voters support charter schools. A poll released in June by Democrats for Education Reform found that more than half of both black and Latino Democratic primary voters view charter schools favorably, and “among those who cast a vote for president in 2016, 50 percent had a favorable opinion of public charter schools while only 28 percent had an unfavorable view.”
Education reformers have not been shy about firing back at Warren. Myrna Castrejón, president of the California Charter Schools Association, said, “Senator Warren’s attacks on charters are unfair and untrue. Public schools and nonprofit charter public schools share the same goal: do right by our kids, whatever their zip code, whatever their race, whatever their religion. On this we can all agree. It shouldn’t be us versus them. It’s all of us, for our kids.”
Citing Harvard University professor Thomas Kane, Center for Education Reform leader Jeanne Allen writes that in Massachusetts (Warren’s home state) in the course of just one year, “the oversubscribed charter schools in the Boston area are closing one half of the Black-White achievement gap in math and roughly one fifth of the Black-White achievement gap in English.”
Activist and writer Chris Stewart claims that for the unions, Warren’s plan is like Christmas, but for school reformers, it’s Pearl Harbor.
Indeed, if Warren were to become POTUS and follow through on her plan, there would certainly be days, months and years of infamy for children and their parents, not to mention every taxpaying American.
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Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.