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Elizabeth Warren, Who Said ‘America Is Failing Its Teachers,’ Running for President

By Alyson Klein — January 02, 2019 2 min read
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We’ve barely said hello to 2019, and already, the 2020 Democratic primary is ramping up. Earlier this week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts became the first big-name Democrat to announce she’s running. (Well, OK, technically she’s launching an exploratory committee, a legal prequisite to actually running, but close enough.)

So what’s Warren’s record on education?

Warren, a member of the Senate education committee, was an outspoken opponent of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ confirmation, and has even started a “DeVos Watch” section of her website, detailing Warren’s oversight of the Education Department.

Warren also was one of just three Democrats to vote against the Senate version of a bill that eventually became the Every Student Succeeds Act because she thought it didn’t go far enough on accountability, but she joined all Senate Democrats in voting for the final version of the law.

In 2016, Warren opposed a Massachusetts ballot initiative that would have raised the cap on the number of charter schools in the state. The amendment, which the state’s teachers’ unions also campaigned against, ultimately went down to defeat. But she has praised some Massachusetts charters.

Back in July, Warren spoke to the American Federation for Teachers convention in Pittsburgh, saying “America is failing our teachers, and when we fail our teachers, we fail our students and we fail our future.” She expressed strong support for unions, which suffered a blow from the Supreme Court in Janus vs. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31. The ruling banned unions from collecting fees from nonmembers who benefit from collective-bargaining agreements.

And, in a 2003 book The Two-Income Trap, Warren and her co-author, Amelia Warren Tyagi, call for a publicly funded voucher system that would enable children to attend any public school. They say the plan would help middle-income families, who would no longer be forced to pay a premium to buy a home in a desirable school district, as well as low-income parents. It’s not clear if Warren, who has decried private school vouchers, still stands by this idea.

She’s also introduced bills to ensure that career and technical education classes and materials are free for high school students, and signed onto a bill authored by Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., that would give grants to districts to improve socioeconomic and racial integration.

A former Harvard law professor, Warren is probably best known for her higher education work. She signed onto a bill that would make tuition at four-year colleges free for families earning up to $125,000 a year, and would make community college free for everyone. That legislation was introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders, an Independent from Vermont and another likely contender for the Democratic nomination. And she’s called for greater accountability for for-profit colleges.

Dozens of Democrats could join Warren in seeking the presidential nomination in coming weeks and months. Get a quick run-down of some of their education records here.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., gives her victory speech at a Democratic election watch party in Boston. The Massachusetts Democrat is launching an exploratory committee for the 2020 presidential campaign. Warren is one of the most recognizable figures in the Democratic Party and a favorite target of President Donald Trump. --Michael Dwyer/AP

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