Former teacher, middle class advocate Elizabeth Warren joins influential U.S. Senate education committee


by Félix Pérez

The first person in her immediate family to graduate from college, Elizabeth Warren aspired to be a teacher when she was a youngster growing up in Oklahoma. And teach she did – special education students at a New Jersey elementary school.

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These days, Warren is still involved with public education, but from a vantage point she never envisioned while earning a degree in speech pathology and audiology. Last week, Warren was sworn in as the newest U.S. senator from the state of Massachusetts.

A state debate champion in high school, an accomplished law school professor and famed consumer advocate, Sen. Warren was also appointed to the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP). There she will leave her imprint on legislation and programs that affect tens of millions of students and educators in classrooms and public schools across America.

Paul Toner, a middle school social studies teacher in Cambridge, Mass., and president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, highlighted Warren’s teaching background when MTA recommended Warren’s candidacy to its 107,000 members:

Elizabeth Warren has the right values and vision to stand up for educators and students in Congress. She understands the issues facing teachers because she was one. Elizabeth Warren recognizes just how important good teachers are to the future of our families, communities, and our country, and will fight to create new opportunities for all of our students from preschool to graduate school.

One of 22 members on the influential Senate HELP committee (12 Democrats, 10 Republicans), Warren will deliberate and vote on issues that shape pre-K through higher education. The committee’s actions, along with those of its House counterpart, play an oversized role in setting the direction for policies and programs followed in schoolhouses and education administration buildings at the state, county and local levels.

E Warren educator supporters 5
Educator supporter and Warren

Among the wide-ranging issues the committee has jurisdiction over are:

  • Teacher quality and training
  • Early childhood education
  • School lunches
  • Student financial assistance
  • Education for students with disabilities
  • The Elementary and Secondary Education Act, otherwise known as No Child Left Behind
  • Vocational and technical education
  • The Higher Education Act

Warren, who came from behind last November to win one of the most closely watched elections in the nation, rose to prominence beginning in 2008 as a fierce advocate for the middle class willing to go toe-to-toe with too-big-to-fail banks and investment firms. It was then that she served as chairwoman of the Congressional Oversight Panel for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), created to protect taxpayers, hold Wall Street accountable, and ensure oversight of financial services institutions. She later built, from top to bottom, the new federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, charged with protecting consumers from financial traps hidden in mortgages, student loans, credit cards and other financial products.

The die had been cast, establishing Warren as a champion for the economically beleaguered middle class.E Warren girl supporter

In a November 2011 Vanity Fair article, Warren, who has earned more than her share of Wall Street and high finance enemies, said: “G.E. doesn’t pay any taxes and we are asking college kids to take on even more debt to get an education, and asking seniors to get by on less. These aren’t just economic questions. These are moral questions.”

Her deep concern for the middle class extends to education, which she characterizes as being at “the core of investing in our future and building a strong middle class. For years, I have worked to level the playing field for middle class families, and I will continue the fight to ensure both students and teachers have the tools they need to succeed here in Massachusetts.”

Massachusetts, yes, but it’s fair to assume her fight will reach beyond that state’s borders.

Reader Comments

  1. Elizabeth Warren needs to resign. If news reports are true and I have yet to read one that shows otherwise, she has abused the system that is meant to help minority students and should be ashamed.

  2. Previous post by “retiredteacher” seems to show evidence that he must have played football before helmets! As a correction, we think that working poor should be able to provide for their families. That the middle class should not have to continue to rdistribute wealth upwards to the top 2% who have screwed up the economy while at the same time receiving compensation so excessive that they have ALL OF THE GAINES in te economy since the crash while he middle class has lost ground. Repeating Romney’s tired discredited “haves” v “have-not” nonsense only makes him look worse. If you’ve been paying attention to the economy, By the way, coach, it’s big daddy government who manages your retirement and/or social security, provided you with a job foryour career, plows the roads, protects you, inspects airplanes, food…..well you probably know that but can’t think beyond your tired “liberal leftist socialist” comments. I’ll bet you weren’t a history teacher!

    Th rest of us, time to pull up the boots and slog through another election. Need to replace Kerry with someone who believes in people, not corporations.

  3. I think she will be a real asset to the committee. She is smart and experienced as opposed to so many policymakers who think they know what to do about schools, but haven’t been in one since they have been in school.

  4. BRAVO! Elizabeth is one of the nation’s middle class defenders who has somehow managed to resist the pervasive influence of BIG $$$, and has not sold out to America Inc. Good luck, I wish her well!!!

  5. Retiredcoach, it’s obvious to me by your programmed post that you are a Republican. It’s ok, I voted that ticket for 30 years until 2011. I coincidentally retired from coaching wrestling, my passion, so I hadn’t paid attention to the details of what my GOP was up to; just took their word for it… Howver, once I began looking into the 30 year trend, beginning with Reagan (yes, I voted for him and loved my tax break as well as his charisma and sincerity), I quickly discovered that the redistribution of wealth is not from the “haves” to the “have-nots,” just the opposite. I post on Yahoo news blogs, and I copied and pasted this from a post from that forum that explains some of what I have discovered is really going on, despite the spin from the right. Here’s why I say that:

    Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) have granted our corporate CEOs and their stockholders access to sweatshops on foreign soil to cut the high wage middle class worker out of the picture with impunity (actually, loopholes, exemptions, credits, etc. written into the tax code, incentivize this offshoring model, introduced back in the 60s when our textile, garment, and shoe factorires left for S. America, then in the late 60s-70s, or toy, electronics, steel left for Japan, but were perfected by sharing graphs and charts in board rooms across the USA, by provideing subsidies to offset liabilities incurred in the cost of setting up factories offshore). Then, these same FTA’s, incessantly lobbied for since the 90′s, allow these cheap products to flood our shores daily in Maersks freighters, capable of hauling 2.2 million train car sized “containers” full of this crap, TARIFF FREE, to fleece a declining middle class even as it kicks these workers to the curb. Now, the “downward pressure” on wages exerted by Red China’s sweatshops ($1.36/hr. avg. wage), have the GOP eyeing the perfect opportunity to bust the Unions, and make lower wages the norm for the USA middle class..

    The great wage disparity that has occurred over the past 30 years has consolidated wealth at the top like we haven’t seen since the days of the Robber Barons a century ago. Maybe you think that there’s something wrong with a USA that promoted all of its citizens’ prosperity, but I don’t; it’s smart business. A middle class with disposable income will bolster retail sales and crank up the economy (this is if this increase actually boosts production in the USA and results in paychecks going into the pockets of USA workers like it used to do before the middle class was kicked to the curb for sweatshop labor on foreign soil.) Even so, during the past 30 years real output in the business sector grew by 140%. Real compensation per hour (includes wages, benefits, pensions, and health insurance) increased by only 38% for the middle class worker.

    Post WWII, 1947-1979 America shared equally in the increase in output. During those years the increase that the bottom 20% received was 116%, the top 20% got an increase of 99%, and the middle quintiles increased somewhere within that range.

    Then the world flipped! From 1980 to 2007 the rich took practically all the increase in income. Over those decades, the poor received only a 15% increase and the middle three quintiles got a 25% increase, while the top 20% got a 95% increase and the top 1% received a raise of close to 300%, and they were compensated fabulously before this trend began (Paul Heise, PhD, Economics).

    Consider Germany, a nation with its fiscal house in relative order. They impose a 19% tariff on imports to protect their industrial sector without so much as a raised eyebrow from the WTO. Plus this type of protection keeps their largely Unionized middle class wages high, which leads to a prosperous middle class with ample disposable income which is pumped back into the German economy contributing to a reasonable GDP. We don’t do that here, and it shows!

    I have come to the realization, after voting GOP for 30 years, that they will use deceptions like kicking the hornets’ nest of social issues including but not limited to: reproductive rights, Evangelical Christians, gun rights, homosexuality, color, sable rattling, and a myriad of alleged “personal freedoms,” and now “right to work” laws, all types of fear mongering and the use of practiced cries of panic and outrage to divert their base’s attention away from the fact that their first and only true love is to the top, who are using their influence in our legislature to turn American the Beautiful, land of opportunity, into a mere Plutocracy. They have pitted us, one against another with this fear mongering, fanning the flames of our worst human instincts, inciting divisions along party lines, socio-economic lines, and racial lines to keep their base’s attention diverted from the fact that they serve only the top. When this can no longer be denied, the GOP will be in big trouble with the electorate, because they will feel used like yesterday’s newspaper and “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” or an electorate that realizes they’ve been used to craft their own demise.

  6. What is a “middle class advocate”? Well it is a liberal leftist socialist who believes that the rich should have their taxes provide for the “don’t haves”. And that the money taken from the “haves” must be distributed by the “big daddy” government!

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