Check out the truth behind a blindingly dishonest attack on Elizabeth Warren and public education
Centrist pundit Jonathan Chait has had a lot of notoriously terrible moments, but this hit job on not just Sen. Elizabeth Warren but the voters of Massachusetts and the very concept of public education as a public good deserves its own special brand of notoriety. Chait attacks Warren for opposing Massachusetts’ 2016 Question 2, which would have lifted the state’s cap on the number of new charter schools, and somehow never manages to mention that Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly rejected the measure, which lost 62% to 38%. Chait’s attack is centered on Warren citing her opposition to Question 2 in an interview with the National Education Association, leading Chait to write, “The fact that she opposed the Massachusetts initiative does prove how far she is willing to go to maintain teachers’-union support. But what it says about her willingness to follow evidence, and to value the needs of low-income parents, is deeply worrisome.” The needs of low-income parents, he says? Boston rejected Question 2 by 62% to 38% exactly as the rest of the state did, and the only 14 precincts in the city that supported Question 2 were in heavily white neighborhoods. Across the state, Question 2 lost in lower-income cities and towns, while its few wins came largely in prosperous suburbs like Weston, not just the highest-income city in the state but one of the highest-income cities in the nation. But Holyoke, Springfield, Fall River, New Bedford—the poorest cities in the state soundly rejected the charter school expansion measure despite the massive amounts of money that the Walmart Waltons and other billionaire opponents of public education poured into it. And Jonathan Chait has not one word to say about those voters or the result they delivered even as he attacks Warren and teachers unions supposedly because of his deep concern for low-income families. As for Chait’s concern for Warren’s “willingness to follow evidence,” well, he’s not the only one to get it wrong. But at the time of Question 2, its backers could point to two supposedly high-quality studies showing that Boston’s charter schools were better than its public schools. Both studies were massively flawed, though. One claimed to have matched students at charter schools with students at public schools—yet 8% of these “matched” students from the charter schools were English-language learners, while 30% of the public school students were ELL. Do you think that might make a difference? The other looked only at the five Boston charter schools that had significant wait lists and compared them to every public school in the city, rather than, say, comparing them with Boston’s five best public schools, so all the study could reasonably claim to show, as my father wrote at the time, was, “The five best charters in Boston are better than the average public school.” The five best out of more than 60, mind you. If Jonathan Chait wants to come out against public education as a public good in this age of teachers striking for education funding and for school nurses and librarians and services for homeless students, I mean … I can’t stop him. That’s the kind of guy he is—his politics are in service to wealth and power. But to attack Elizabeth Warren for supposedly not caring about low-income parents and children without even mentioning that the very people he claims to be defending took the exact same position as Warren on the exact ballot measure he’s talking about is not just dishonest. It is contemptuous of the will of the voters. It sneers at what low-income parents in Massachusetts decided was best for their children. It erases the parents Chait claims to speak for. Which is, again, par for the Chait course. Oh, and by the way? The teachers unions Chait attacks as not caring about low-income kids just won, after a sustained campaign, a $1.5 billion increase in education funding in Massachusetts that will go overwhelmingly to low-income communities. Friday, Dec 6, 2019 · 8:43:45 PM +00:00 · Laura Clawson Oh, and by the way, Chait's wife works in the charter school industry, something he rarely discloses when writing about education.