Sen. Elizabeth Warren, running for the 2020 Democratic nomination, is desperate to craft a public image that includes her time spent as a public school teacher, even if it was undeniably short. To that end, she’s spent time in Chicago this week, appearing with striking members of the Chicago Teachers Union.
On Monday, Warren released a video of herself calling striking teachers, offering words of support as a “former public school teacher.”
“I’m calling to say thank you for contributing to my campaign multiple times and second, be strong in the Chicago teachers’ strike. I know that this has gotta be a hard time for the teachers and I know that no one involved does this lightly, but that you’re out there fighting for the future of our children,” she said in the video, posted to social media.
Warren has been pushing her one year of experience as an unlicensed special education teacher hard over the last month, perhaps in the hopes it distracts from the rest of her biography, which includes high-paid stints as a law professor, house flipper, and, eventually, as a career public servant. She’s already faced criticism for the focus on her public education career, after she tried to claim she was fired from her job for becoming pregnant, rather than for failing to get a required accreditation.
On Wednesday, Warren headlined a CTU rally, where she choked up a bit talking to a massive union rally in downtown Chicago, while around 300,000 students went without classes for a fourth day.
“Everyone in America should support you in this strike,” Warren told the crowd. “The reason is because when you go out and fight, you don’t just fight for yourselves. You fight for their children of this city, and the children of this country. I believe in public education. I believe it is time in America to make a new investment in public education.”
“I got a plan for that,” she continued.
She certainly does: an $800 billion plan that would “quadruple Title I funding for poor students to $450 billion over 10 years, increase funding for students with disabilities by $20 billion, invest $100 billion in so-called “excellence grants” for schools to invest in programs and resources they think are the most important for their students and provide $50 billion in infrastructure spending,” according to U.S. News and World Report. It also calls for replacing the Secretary of Education (something that’s the prerogative of a new president, regardless), and cracking down on charter and private schools.
She outlined her plan on Twitter on Tuesday, right before she made her call to striking Chicago teachers. There’s little it doesn’t include, and most of the elements are a direct handout to powerful teachers unions, who are backing Warren, and will likely provide millions in funding and thousands of hours of labor for her presidential campaign, if she wins the nomination.
“The unions are how we have a voice. The unions are how we have power,” Warren said during her speech in Chicago. “The unions are how we make sure that the needs of every single one of our children are heard loud and clear. So today, I’m here because the eyes of this nation are upon you. They have turned to Chicago for you to lead the way, for you to show how the power of standing together is the power of making real change in this country.”
Like the unions in Chicago, though, Warren is tight-lipped on how anyone plans to pay for her massive education spending increase.
Striking teachers in Chicago are calling for pay and benefits hikes, smaller class sizes, and hundreds more employees for the school system, including nurses and social workers (who also happen to be represented by unions affliated with CTU), but Chicago’s mayor, Lori Lightfoot has made clear that there’s no money for such a massive hiring binge — because there’s no money for, well, anything.
“There is a finite pot of money. We don’t have unlimited cash to keep funding the things that are aspirational and maybe things that, on values that we share,” Lightfoot said in a press conference Tuesday, according to CNN. “We have to live within our means. That’s what the taxpayers expect of us, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Striking teachers, no doubt, would like Lightfoot to hike Chicago property taxes, but even that money is spoken for.
Warren is expected to outline how she plans to pay for her huge education package later this week, but she already appears to be at a loss over how to fund the other huge spending programs she’s proposing, including a student loan bailout, a “green new deal,” and a Medicare for All universal health care plan.