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My Education Secretary Will Be a Former Public School Teacher, Elizabeth Warren Pledges

By Andrew Ujifusa — May 13, 2019 2 min read
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A Democratic candidate for president has made a promise: My pick to replace Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos will have experience in public schools.

On Monday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., announced in a campaign email her pledge to pick a former public school teacher as her education secretary.

Calling DeVos “the worst Secretary of Education we’ve seen,” Warren goes on to say that her pick for secretary will also be “committed to public education.”

“Let’s get a person with real teaching experience. A person who understands how low pay, tattered textbooks, and crumbling classrooms hurt students and educators,” Warren states in the email. “A person who understands the crushing burden of student debt on students and young professionals and who is committed to actually doing something about it.” She also put out a video underscoring this sentiment, adding that DeVos doesn’t really believe in public education:

Warren made the announcement just a few hours before she joined the American Federation of Teachers for a town hall event on education in Philadelphia.

The senior senator from Massachusetts has been a vocal opponent of DeVos since the latter’s confirmation hearing in January 2017; later that year, Warren even created a “DeVos Watch” on her U.S. Senate website to chronicle what she thought were DeVos’ bad decisions and conflicts of interests.

During her presidential campaign, Warren has aggressively courted teachers’ unions and also highlighted her own background in education: Many years ago, Warren worked as a special education teacher. Her Monday announcement builds on remarks Warren made earlier this year, when she said it’d be “pretty fabulous” for a teacher to be in the White House.

It’ll be interesting to see who this pledge would rule in (or out) of the secretary’s job under a hypothetical President Warren. When we looked at potential education secretaries under Hillary Clinton in 2016, former public school teacher Denise Juneau made the list. Juneau, who at the time was Montana’s schools chief, is now the superintendent of Seattle schools.

Arne Duncan, President Barack Obama’s first education secretary, did not work as a classroom teacher, but Obama’s second pick, John B King Jr., taught social studies in Boston and Puerto Rico. In total, four U.S. education secretaries have been classroom teachers. DeVos has never been a classroom teacher.

Photo: Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., gives her victory speech at a Democratic election watch party in Boston in 2016.

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