WASHINGTON — Elizabeth Warren may be best known for her public flaying of inept financial executives and aggressive policy ideas aimed at the banking industry, but the Massachusetts senator is setting the pace among the 2020 contenders when it comes to education.
On Monday, Warren pledged that, if elected president, her secretary of education would be a former public school teacher “who is committed to public education.”
In an email blast, she said that Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s current education secretary and a long-time advocate of charter schools and foe of teachers unions, was “the worst Secretary of Education we’ve seen” and that the people she’d surrounded herself with “are up to their eyeballs in conflicts of interest.” (Several of DeVos’ lieutenants previously worked at for-profit education companies.)
But Betsy DeVos is just a symptom of a badly broken system. We’re up against powerful forces, and to win, we need big structural change. So here’s my plan: Under a Warren administration, the Secretary of Education will be a public school teacher. pic.twitter.com/4M33NGTNJt
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) May 13, 2019
Warren, who once taught special education at a public elementary school, went on to say that her ideal candidate for education secretary — the nation’s top public education official overseeing everything from a $1.2 trillion portfolio of student loans, to civil rights for students, to funding for K-12 schools — would be someone with “real teaching experience. A person who understands how low pay, tattered textbooks, and crumbling classrooms hurt students and educators. 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.”
Warren has almost singlehandedly driven the debate around education in the 2020 presidential race. In late April, she announced a plan — first reported by Rolling Stone — to tackle the nation’s student-debt crisis, giving some form of debt relief to the vasty majority of the 45 million Americans who together hold $1.5 trillion in student debt. Warren’s higher-ed plan calls for the creation of a $50 billion fund to invest in Historically Black Colleges and Universities and minority-serving institutions. It would also make student-loan debt dischargeable in bankruptcy like many other forms of consumer debt.
Warren’s new proposals include investments in universal childcare and pre-K programs, as well as increasing salaries for preschool teachers. She would pay for those policies — as she would her debt relief plan — with her Ultra-Millionaire Tax, a two-percent levy on families with a total wealth above $50 million and an additional one-percent levy on families with more than $1 billion in wealth.