Elizabeth Warren unveils $800 billion plan to reshape U.S. public education

Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou

Senator Elizabeth Warren unveiled an $800 billion plan to fund her progressive proposal for reshaping U.S. public education and disclosed that her signature wealth tax will pay for school and child-care initiatives – in effect transferring the cost of raising a child from birth to college to America’s richest families.

Warren would quadruple U.S. federal funding for public schools over 10 years, to $450 billion, and add $200 billion for students with disabilities. The spending includes $100 billion in “Excellence Grants” over a decade – the equivalent of $1 million for every U.S. school – and $50 billion to improve buildings and other infrastructure.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks during the Polk County Democrats Steak Fry, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa.

“The vastly unequal state of public school facilities is unacceptable and a threat to public education,” Warren wrote in a Medium post Monday. “We cannot legitimately call our schools public’ when some students have state-of-the-art classrooms and others do not even have consistent running water. The federal government must step in.”

Warren has been a long-time supporter of teachers, and on the campaign trail, she regularly recounts her job as a special-education teacher early in her career. She’s also been vocal in her criticism of Betsy DeVos, President Donald Trump’s education secretary – a billionaire and advocate of charter schools and taxpayer-funded school vouchers.

Wealth tax

To pay for her plan, the Warren campaign said the allocation from her proposed wealth tax will shift. The campaign estimates the tax will raise about $2.75 trillion over a decade. From that, Warren will cover her $1.07 trillion universal child-care plan, the cancellation of $640 billion of student debt, $610 billion for free-college tuition and now $800 billion for K-12 education.

If her plan for a 2-cent tax on fortunes above $50 million is enacted, the 75,000 richest U.S. families would be paying the costs of raising and schooling every American child.

The tax reallocation means her $100 billion opioids plan, $7 billion small-business equity fund and $20 billion election security and administration investment – previously funded from the wealth tax – will be covered by closing the “stepped-up basis” loophole in the tax on inherited assets, which will raise more than $100 billion over 10 years, the campaign said.

Student data

Besides her vow to bar Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google from collecting student data to market products, Warren would ban the sharing, storing and sale of data with information identifying individual students to block educational technology companies and for-profit schools from selling their data to corporations. She would also tighten restrictions for companies that lobby school systems that receive federal funding.

Warren also would ban for-profit charter schools and halt federal funding to expand such schools, which she said have been an “abject failure.” She would toughen accountability requirements, direct the Internal Revenue Service to investigate any non-profit schools that break the law and expand enforcement of Justice Department whistle-blower actions for schools that commit fraud against taxpayers.

The Massachusetts senator said she’d use some of the $450 billion in funding in her plan to increase teacher pay. She promised to replace DeVos with a former teacher and give public employees such as teachers more negotiating power while making it easier for them to join a union.

Warren’s vision for schools, outlined in a 17-page document released Monday, includes eliminating high-stakes standardized tests, ending zero-tolerance discipline policies and canceling student meal debt while boosting federal funding for free breakfasts and lunches, including meals over weekends and holidays for students who need it.