WASHINGTON — Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren said Monday she wants to boost spending on public schools, eliminate high-stakes testing, and end federal funding for charter school expansion as a part of a comprehensive education reform plan.
Warren, who got her professional start as a public school teacher, released a plan in which she also promised if elected president to use federal funding as an incentive for more states to better integrate their schools — a move she said is crucial to achieving the best educational outcomes for all students. She added she would push states to dedicate more money per student to high-poverty school districts.
“I believe in America’s public schools,” Warren wrote in the 17-page plan. “And I believe that every kid in America should have the same access to a high-quality public education — no matter where they live, the color of their skin, or how much money their parents make. We’re not living up to that promise.”
In a wide-ranging effort to fund schools more adequately, Warren vowed in her latest detailed campaign plan to quadruple the primary source of federal funding for K-12 education — which works out to an additional $450 billion over the next 10 years. Warren said the increased spending would be paid for by her proposed 2 percent wealth tax on fortunes above $50 million.
With a growing focus on high-stakes standardized testing, Warren argued that teachers are increasingly forced to teach to the test at the expense of a more valuable learning experience for students. She said as president she wouldn’t allow standardized testing to factor in significantly when deciding whether to close a school, fire a teacher, or make any other major decision.
In the proposal, Warren railed against what she said is the harmful privatization of education, citing a report that found the federal government has wasted up to $1 billion on charter schools that never opened or that opened and were closed due to mismanagement and other problems. Warren would ban for-profit charter schools and end federal funding for the expansion of charter schools, which she said are not subject to the same oversight as traditional public schools.
She also pledged to enact a federal provision that will ensure public employees, like teachers, are able to organize and collectively bargain. Warren’s call for increased teacher protections comes at the same time as a widely publicized teachers’ strike in Chicago, where negotiations remain at a standstill between public school officials and the teachers union. Classes for more than 300,000 students in the nation’s third-largest school district have been canceled for three days as teachers press for better pay, smaller class sizes, and more staffing.
“Warren’s plan rightly elevates the rights of teachers to come together and use their voice to advocate for what their students need, like the educators in Chicago are doing right now,” said Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s second-largest teachers union. “It’s a plan focused on supporting students from birth to college and career, and on supporting teachers throughout their careers.”
To ease the cost burden of a college education, Warren said she would wipe out student debt for “most teachers” and provide tuition-free public college so future teachers don’t take on any debt in the first place. Currently, about one-sixth of the US population over 18 carry a federal student loan, with the total debt at $1.5 trillion. Warren had previously proposed free tuition at state colleges and universities as part of her Democratic presidential campaign.
Additionally, Warren called out Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for worsening the state of the country’s public school system and reiterated a promise she made in May that she would choose an education secretary who has been a public school teacher. DeVos, who Warren has been highly critical of since she was nominated by then-President elect Donald Trump in November 2016, was never a public school teacher and has supported charter schools and government-funded vouchers to allow parents to send their children to private schools instead of public ones.
“The Warren plan for education is grounded in high-quality research evidence that showed why we must consistently and seriously invest in our children if we hope to close the opportunity gaps that cause so many of our children to never reach their full potential,” said Kevin Welner, a professor at the University of Colorado’s School of Education. “It’s a refreshing turnaround from the useless and even harmful quick fixes that have plagued our schools for decades.”
Ryan Wangman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .