Do Teachers’ Buy Into Warren’s Opposition to Charter Schools?

Recently. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass, a candidate for president of the United States, rolled out her education policy. According to Politico, Warren would greatly expand federal government support for K through 12 public schools to the tune of $800 billion over ten years.

At the same time, under President Warren, for-profit charter schools would be banned by the federal government. At the same time, most funding for all types of charter schools would be curtailed.

Warren, following the line of the teachers’ unions, stated that all charter schools do is to divert funding from public schools. She states the criticism of charter schools that they also divert the best students from the public education system, leaving poorer and minority students behind.

To be sure, a recent article in Forbes refutes Warren’s assertions. Charter schools, whether they are independent or public schools that are run on the charter model, are better for students than traditional public schools.

Charter schools have autonomy from school district politics and are thus free to develop education models, as well as policies such as staffing, that are better suited for their students. Different types of students, who come from diverse backgrounds, can learn according to their specific circumstances, especially recent immigrants who may still be learning English.

Charter schools are also more accountable than traditional public schools. Charter schools have to perform according to student achievement benchmarks. Public schools rarely if ever are subject to such oversight, unless forced to by elected officials. Teachers’ unions are especially resistant to the idea of closing public schools that have become so dysfunctional that students cannot learn.

Charter schools also have to undergo a rigorous vetting process before they are even allowed to open, especially if they are replacing failing, public schools. Parents and students know in advance that the charter school they propose to enroll in are of the best quality.

Independent charter schools are superior to public schools that run as charters. The former is free of the constraints of a public-school district bureaucracy. The latter is subject to a school district’s political whims.

One would think that Elizabeth Warren, being a politician of the left on so many other issues, would naturally be opposed to charter schools or vouchers that allow students to attend entire private schools. But, as it turns out, one would be wrong.

The Washington Free Beacon has a fascinating article about how Sen. Warren has “evolves” in her views on education issues. Just 15 years ago, Warren fully supported school vouchers.

“’A taxpayer-funded voucher that paid the entire cost of educating a child (not just a partial subsidy) would open a range of opportunities to all children,’ Warren wrote in her book, The Two-Income Trap. ‘With fully funded vouchers, parents of all income levels could send their children – and the accompanying financial support – to the schools of their 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,’ the book says.”

Warren’s 2004 views would seem to be indistinguishable from that of Ted Cruz or the current Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Warren even acknowledged at the time that vouchers and charter schools meet with fierce opposition from the teachers’ unions. So, what changed in the past 15 years for Sen. Warren to do a complete 180 on education policy?

The Free Beacon suggests that the cause of Warren’s flipflop is hefty campaign contributions from the same teachers’ unions that she acknowledged opposed vouchers and charter schools.

“Warren’s reversal comes after the Massachusetts senator took more than $2.5 million in campaign cash from the education industry throughout her political career, including nearly $70,000 from the country’s most powerful teachers’ unions, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.”

At the time Warren wrote her book in which she laid out her support for vouchers and charter schools, she was an obscure academic, teaching commercial law at Harvard University Law School.

She is now a second-term senator from one of the most liberal states of the union and is running for president from the far left, competing for votes mostly from Bernie Sanders, a fellow senator who describes himself as a “democratic socialist.”

Very few politicians survive in Democratic politics without support from teachers’ unions. So, ambitious as she is to climb the greasy pole of political power, Warren has toed to the line. To use the well-worn phrase, she was for charter schools and school vouchers before she opposed them.