Elizabeth Warren Brooks No Bullies as She Fights for Progressive Accountability in Federal Education Laws

One of the most powerful, progressive, and popular leaders in national politics is  U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), whom many regard as Teddy Kennedy’s heir in terms of social justice, civil rights, consumer protection,  and education. She was endorsed by NEA’s PAC in 2012, a hero at this year's Netroots Nation conference (and next year's keynoter), and  lionized by Randi Weingarten who described Warren as “ahead of the curve in proposing real solutions to help millions of aspiring students reclaim access to the American dream—access to higher education.”

Warren is also a proud sponsor of the Murphy Amendment,, which would require states to not only assess school performance and report out data on historically disenfranchised subgroups (African-American, Hispanic, economically-disadvantaged, students with disabilities, ELL)  but also require states to intervene in schools where these subgroups consistently fail to meet state benchmarks.
The Murphy Amendment was narrowly defeated in the Senate on party lines but, like the peasant in Monty Python’s Holy Grail, isn’t quite dead yet because it could still be resuscitated in conference.

But for both conservative Republicans and teacher union leaders, this amendment is the hill to die on, the former because of resentment towards federal intrusion into state autonomy and the latter because of resentment towards accountability.  Here’s an excerpt of a letter from NEA to the U.S. Senate:
On behalf of the three million members of the National Education Association and the students they serve, and as a follow-up to our letter on the underlying bill, the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 (S. 1177), we urge you to VOTE NO on amendment 2241 offered by Senators Murphy (D-CT), Durbin (D-IL), Warren (D-MA), Booker (D-NJ) and Coons (D-DE) expected to be voted on this week. Votes associated with this amendment will be included in NEA’s Legislative Report Card for the 114th Congress.
Despite NEA’s threat that they’ll withhold campaign funding from advocates of accountability and a small degree of federal oversight, Warren and the tiny group of brave Democrats remain committed to educational equity. On Friday CommonWealth, which describes Warren as the “the new face of an unapologetically liberal wing of the Democratic Party,” reported that
Most Democrats then supported the final Senate bill, which passed overwhelmingly, 81-17, without the Murphy amendment. Warren was one of just three Democrats to vote against it, joining with Murphy and Cory Booker of New Jersey. 
In a statement released after the July 16 vote, Warren called the original Elementary and Secondary Education Act a “landmark civil rights law.” Through it, she said, the country “committed to improving educational opportunity for children living in poverty, children of color, children with disabilities, and other groups of kids who had been underserved, mistreated, or outright ignored by public schools. Today’s bill does not live up to that powerful legacy.”
Warren, thus, aligns herself with President Obama and the nation’s major civil rights groups and against NEA and AFT leaders. Kati Haycock explains in the CommonWealth piece that “the dangerously unholy alliance” between teacher union leaders and statist Republicans, is “born out of a bizarre romanticism for what happens when locals get freed to run everything.” Haycock continues,
 There’s this kind of romantic idea that folks at the local level and state level know best. But these are the very same people who have systematically underfunded poor kids and kids of color. The need to not have the pendulum swing back there is evidenced from years and decades of states and communities running these kids over.
Sen. Warren  remains unfettered by romanticism, Tea Party politics,  or blind union fealty.  Her education platform is founded on what's best for kids, especially those who historically have been "underserved, mistreated, or outright ignored by public schools." She's the antidote for cynicism, at least in the context of national education policy.

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