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Elizabeth Warren's Bias Against Private and Religious Schools -- and Their Teachers

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/John Locher

From the time she was a little girl, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts had a dream. She wanted to work for the government.

"Me, I knew for sure what I wanted to do from second grade on," Warren said in a speech delivered in Philadelphia on May 13. "I wanted to be a public school teacher."


"Can we hear it for public school teachers? That's what I wanted," said Warren.

The American Federation of Teachers -- a union affiliated with the AFL-CIO --hosted the event Warren addressed.

Notice she did not tell the teachers' union she simply wanted to be a schoolteacher -- or a high school teacher, or a grammar school teacher. She said she wanted to be a "public school teacher."

She then made a promise.

"I will name, as president of the United States, a secretary of education who has been a public school teacher," said Warren.

Notice, again, that Warren did not vow to name someone who had been a schoolteacher to be secretary of education. She vowed to name someone who has been a "public school teacher."

Warren did not make a rhetorical slip here. She made a political commitment. On Aug. 31, she posted a tweet that included a video of her repeating this commitment. The tweet said: "I will nominate a Secretary of Education who has been a public school teacher -- Betsy DeVos need not apply."

Imagine, hypothetically, someone who spent 25 years teaching at an urban Catholic school and another 10 serving as its principal. Imagine that this teacher inspired thousands of students along with his faculty colleagues, taught them so well that many gained acceptance to and graduated from prestigious colleges.


Imagine many of his former students returned from these colleges to become role models in the community where they grew up. Some even returned to teach at their alma mater.

After 35 years, this teacher-turned-principal retired from education and ran for Congress. He eventually became chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor.

Would this former teacher be qualified to serve as Elizabeth Warren's secretary of education?

No. Why? Because this former teacher was never a "public school teacher."

Warren's bias against teachers at religious and private schools -- and against the schools at which they teach -- also informs her very peculiar approach to school choice.

When President Donald Trump nominated Betsy DeVos -- a prominent advocate of school choice -- for secretary of education, Warren sent her a 16-page letter. Under the heading "Privatizing and Defunding K-12 Education," Warren's letter attacked DeVos for supporting voucher programs that allowed students to attend "private and religious schools."

"For decades," Warren wrote, "you have been one of the nation's strongest advocates for radically transforming the public education system through the use of taxpayer-funded vouchers that steer public dollars away from traditional public schools to private and religious schools."


In fact, it is not the voucher that steers money away from public schools; it is the parents who hold a voucher and decide to redeem it at a private or religious school, rather than at a government school.

Tellingly, Warren has favored giving parents school choice as long as they are prohibited from choosing a private or religious school.

"Short of buying a new home, parents currently have only one way to escape a failing public school: Send the kids to a private school," Warren said in "The Two-Income Trap," a book she co-authored with her daughter, Amelia Warren Tyagi, in 2003 (and which was republished in 2016).

"But there is another alternative, one that would keep much-needed dollars inside the public school system while still reaping the advantages offered by a voucher program," Warren and her daughter wrote. "Local governments could enact meaningful reforms by enabling parents to choose from among (SET ITAL) all (END ITAL) the public schools in a locale, with no presumptive assignment based on neighborhood.

"Under a public school voucher program, parents, not bureaucrats, would have the power to pick schools for their children -- and to choose which schools would get their children's vouchers."

For Warren, American parents should be allowed to choose where they send their children to school -- as long as the government runs the school.


More often than not, this means parents would be forced to choose academically inferior schools.

The Department of Education's 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress tests indicated that 63 percent of high school seniors in Catholic schools were proficient or better in reading. That was true of only 36 percent of seniors in public schools.

Forty-eight percent of seniors in Catholic high schools were proficient or better in math -- compared with 23 percent in public schools.

Parents who truly have a choice about where they send their children to school will also consider the values taught in the school.

Warren apparently would prefer that American children learn their values in government-run schools.

Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor in chief of

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