In one sense, Warren is correct. 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.
Boston has probably the most effective public charter schools in America, producing enormous learning gains for the most disadvantaged children. “Charter schools in the urban areas of Massachusetts have large, positive effects on educational outcomes,” reported a Brookings study. “The effects are particularly large for disadvantaged students, English learners, special education students, and children who enter charters with low test scores.” Researchers have asked and answered every possible objection: Boston’s charters are not “skimming” the best students, they do scale up, and they do not harm students left behind in traditional public schools. (Indeed, “charter expansion has a small positive effect on non-charter students’ achievement.”)
It is inconvenient for Warren that she happens to represent a state with the most effective charter sector in the country, given the fact that she’s running for president and one of the most influential interest groups in her party opposes charters everywhere. Even more inconveniently, Massachusetts had a ballot initiative in 2016 to lift the cap on charter attendance in Boston schools. (The previous time the cap had been lifted, charters proved they could replicate and expand on their success, and proved operators were asking to open schools.) This spurred Warren, who had previously supported charter schools, to reverse herself.