Could Elizabeth Warren Become The Next Education Secretary?

Joe Biden has picked a running mate and, while the election is still 64 days away, many are thinking about what a potential Biden administration might look like, including cabinet secretaries. It’s been reported that Senator Elizabeth Warren “is definitely in the Cabinet,” should she want it. While Treasury is often the role mentioned for Warren, her recent Democratic National Convention speech created a stir on social media with some saying she should become the next Secretary of Education.

At the Democratic National Convention, Warren focused on the child care crisis the country is facing. Speaking from the Early Childhood Education Center in Springfield, Massachusetts, Warren talked about her personal struggle early in her career without child care and spoke of her beloved “Aunt Bee” who stepped in to help her, while championing Joe Biden’s plan to make high-quality child care affordable and provide universal preschool.  

But her speech wasn’t the only time she’s engaged the issue. Many followers of education policy recognize that Warren has been active on education issues during her time in the Senate and she made them central to her campaign for president.

Before becoming a Senator, Warren made a name for herself as a bankruptcy expert and consumer protection advocate. She was intensely engaged on these issues during the financial crisis, which led to the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

It should come as no surprised then that, once in the Senate, Warren would also focus a great deal of attention on for-profit colleges and student debt. Warren pushed the Obama administration on holding for-profits accountable and held her own investigations into them, which helped lead to millions in debt relief for defrauded students.

But she’s been involved in all areas of education. As a member of the education committee, she was involved in the Every Student Succeeds Act—the law governing K-12 education—which passed in 2015. Once Trump was elected, Warren grilled Betsy DeVos on many areas of education when DeVos was nominated for the post of Education Secretary.

Warren has consistently been a critic of Secretary DeVos during her tenure and has taken her role in oversight of the Department very seriously, even creating a landing page called “DeVos Watch” tracking the secretary’s efforts. She’s questioned DeVos’s hiring of former for-profit college executives, her handling of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, and her proposal to allow states to use federal funds to arm teachers.

Senator Warren remained active in education issues during her campaign for the Democratic nomination for president. She was one of the only candidates who frequently championed her plan for universal child care and preschool on the trail. Warren introduced a plan to improve funding for K-12 education and another to make public colleges tuition-free. And she had one of the most expansive proposals to cancel student debt.

Warren even called for ending for-profit colleges’ eligibility for federal grants and loans. That’s why, along with her history of oversight and criticism, it was reported during the primary that for-profit college stocks were falling at the prospect of a President Elizabeth Warren.

When Warren ran for president, she promised to choose someone who had taught in a public school to be the next Secretary of Education, a pledge Joe Biden also adopted. Of course, she wasn’t thinking of herself, but Warren actually fits that bill in a couple of ways. First of all, the Senator started her career teaching students with special needs in public school.

While Warren became known for that experience, she actually has other experience in public schools. Though it may not be the typical idea of a “public school teacher,” Warren had stints teaching law at public universities, including the University of Houston and the University of Texas – Austin, before making her way to Ivy League law schools.

Those experiences, along with her knowledge of education issues, would serve her well in the role of Education Secretary. While K-12 education is often the focus of the political conversation, higher education is actually a major component of the job of running the Department of Education, particularly when it comes to the federal dollars being spent on education. Outside of understanding higher education, Warren’s depth of knowledge about economics—particularly around banking and consumer finance—would be incredibly useful managing a trillion-dollar student loan portfolio.

Warren has also influenced Biden on education policies since he became the nominee. While they both have different plans for child care, early childhood, and K-12 education, Biden has moved on student debt issues. First, he backed Warren’s bankruptcy proposal, which would allow federal student loans to be discharged in bankruptcy. Then he adopted Warren’s plan to cancel $10,000 in student debt, as part of coronavirus relief and stimulus legislation.

But of course, the decision will come down to where both Biden and Warren think she will best serve. Warren is likely to be considered for a number of roles in a Biden administration, should he be elected, including Treasury, the Federal Reserve, and Education. She could even take over her brainchild, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. But she may also opt to stay in the Senate, where she would likely wield a great deal of influence legislatively and also with the administration.


Related Readings:

Who Might Biden Pick As Education Secretary?

The Nation’s Child Care Crisis

How Elizabeth Warren Would Better Fund Our Schools

Why For-Profit Colleges Are Nervous About A President Elizabeth Warren

Senator Warren Announced a New Plan To Cancel Student Debt

Senate Democrats Propose Student Debt Cancellation As Coronavirus Relief

Elizabeth Warren: Cancel Student Debt In The Next Stimulus Package

Joe Biden And Kamala Harris’s Plan For Student Debt


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