Should politicians be held accountable for being hypocrites about education policy?
At least one leading Democratic presidential candidate, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, wants to make it harder for parents to exercise school choice even though she sent one of her children to elite private schools.
When Warren delivered a speech at a campaign event in Atlanta last November, charter school supporters showed up to make their voices heard. Warren is an outspoken critic of charters, which are publicly funded schools that operate with more freedom (and less taxpayer money per pupil) than traditional K-12 institutions. The Massachusetts senator's education platform calls for ending federal funding of charters, increasing regulations for them, and making it more difficult to open new ones.
Sarah Carpenter, a grandmother and school choice activist who had traveled six hours from Memphis to attend the event, later confronted Warren backstage in a filmed exchange that went viral:
Carpenter: "I read that your children went to private schools."
Warren: "No, my children went to public schools."
The clip went viral because Warren wasn't telling the truth. Corey DeAngelis, the director of school choice at Reason Foundation (the nonprofit that publishes this website), had discovered through online sleuthing that Warren's son Alex, now 43, had attended Kirby Hall, an elite private school in Austin, Texas. It subsequently came out that Alex had also attended the Haverford School, a tony all-boys academy outside Philadelphia.
Yet Warren's educational platform would make it more difficult for low- and middle-income families to follow suit using charters, taxpayer-funded voucher programs, tuition tax credits, and a wide range of other options. On the campaign trail, though, she presents herself as a champion of public schools and counsels parents not to leave failing institutions. She addressed a gathering of members of the nation's largest teachers union, declaring:
If you think your public school is not working, then go help your public school…Go help get more resources for [your public school]. Volunteer at your public school. Help get the teachers and school bus drivers and cafeteria workers and the custodial staff and the support staff, help get them some support so they can do the work that needs to be done. You don't like the building? You think it's old and decaying? Then get out there and push to get a new one.
In an interview with Reason's Nick Gillespie, DeAngelis discusses school choice hypocrisy on the part of Warren, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Obama Chief of Staff and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, and others. Many critics of charters and vouchers oppose the use of tax dollars at private or religious educational institutions, he notes, but have no issue when public funds are used in the same way via Pell grants, veterans benefits, or in plans for universal preschool. "Why is it any different between pre-K and college?" asks DeAngelis. "It seems pretty inconsistent to me."
Reason is celebrating National School Choice Week. This story is part of a series that will be published over the course of the week highlighting different K-12 education options available to children and families.
Edited by John Osterhoudt
Music: Sadstorm by MADGOHAPPY
Photos: RCF/MEGA/Newscom; Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Newscom; Fritz Nordengren/ZUMA Press/Newscom; Andre Jenny Stock Connection Worldwide/Newscom; ARCHIE CARPENTER/UPI/Newscom; ARCHIE CARPENTER/UPI/Newscom; Allison Dinner/ZUMA Press/Newscom; Fritz Nordengren/ZUMA Press/Newscom; Ethan Hyman/TNS/Newscom; ALEXIS C. GLENN/UPI/Newscom