Late yesterday afternoon, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) quietly revealed that she will vote no to raise Massachusetts’ cap on charter schools, preventing thousands of students across the state from accessing better education opportunities. Warren released this news just hours before last night’s presidential debate – hoping it wouldn’t get the coverage it deserves – after spending weeks refusing to publicly state her position on the issue.
Warren’s move represents a major break from her past support for education reform. Commonwealth Magazine noted that her 2003 book, Warren “offered a full-throated endorsement of a voucher system that would allow children to enroll at any public school within a large geographic region that crosses municipal boundaries.” Warren has even previously stated that, “zip codes should not act as barbed-wire fences to keep out children whose parents cannot afford homes in that district.”
One explanation for Warren’s opposition is her close ties with the Massachusetts teachers’ union, which vehemently opposes the proposal. The Massachusetts Teachers Association endorsed Warren in the past, spending over $100,000 on her behalf, and Warren’s opposition to this needed-reform sure seems likely payback.
Support for this charter ballot initiative has strong support from both Republicans and Democrats in Massachusetts. Republican Governor Charlie Baker backs the initiative while Democratic Speaker Of The Massachusetts House, Robert DeLeo, is supportive since the ballot measure would allow districts that want charters to pursue them. Earlier this month, Democrat Congressman Stephen Lynch, a former union leader, endorsed the measure:
Congressman Stephen Lynch, a Massachusetts Democrat and former labor leader, said this week he’ll be voting for the November ballot question that seeks to expand the number of charter schools in the state. Appearing on WBUR’s “Radio Boston,” Lynch noted he is a co-founder of the Boston Collegiate Charter School. … “So I’m very much pro-charter school, no question about it,” Lynch said. “I don’t necessarily think they’re the be-all and end-all, but I certainly am very, very supportive of them and I support expanding the cap.”
Even national Democrats like President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Senator Cory Booker have supported expanding charter school access because it helps give the students a better opportunity to learn and grow.
But as Elizabeth Warren gears up her political operation, vowing to play a leading role in dictating who can and can’t serve in a prospective Hillary Clinton White House, this latest flip-flop should worry Democrats and Republicans who believe America’s education system needs reform.