WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – State Senator Claire Celsi, D-West Moines, who describes herself as a public education advocate and activist, implied during her remarks at a town hall event for U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., that U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos doesn’t like kids because she does not share Celsi’s view of public education. She also said the plan “blows up” what President Trump’s education secretary has attempted to do.

Celsi, who represents Iowa Senate District 21, recently endorsed Warren for the Democratic nomination for President. She cited the Massachusetts senator’s plan for public education as one of the reasons why.

“So Elizabeth’s ticket out of the middle class to where she is now is public education, and that is what really got me wanting to support Elizabeth Warren,” Celsi said.

She said she didn’t want to go into details and encouraged those at the rally to read Warren’s plan for themselves she said that as a public education advocate and activist that the plan “hits all the right notes.”

“It basically blows up what Betsy DeVos is trying to do right now to our country. So with someone like Elizabeth Warren who had a great public education from K through 12 all the way through law school, she truly believes that public education is the great equalizer and so do I,” Celsi explained.

“Her plan – if you don’t know about 90 percent of all funding for public education come from federal (sic) and state sources and the other 10 percent usually comes from the federal government. Her plan incentivizes states to do the right thing for equity and a whole bunch of other things like Title I to bring that 10 percent back into our state and to actually give states incentives to do the right thing with their money too, so with someone like Elizabeth running the country and a secretary of education who actually likes kids she will get it done,” she added.

Warren’s plan would pressure states to spend more money on education. Warren wrote, explaining her plan to quadruple Title I funding that she would pressure states to make changes to their funding structures:

I’m also committed to using this new federal investment to press states to adopt better funding approaches themselves. I would condition access to this additional Title I funding on states chipping in more funding, adopting more progressive funding formulas, and actually allocating funding consistently with these new formulas. This would ensure that both the federal government and state governments do their part to progressively and equitably fund public schools while still ensuring that no child gets less per-student funding than they do today.

Warren also said she would expand Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) grants by committing an additional $20 billion. She also said she would commit an additional $100 billion over 10 years to “Excellence Grants” to any public school.

“These funds can be used to develop state-of-the art labs, restore afterschool arts programs, implement school-based student mentoring programs, and more. I’ll work with schools and school leaders to develop the best way to structure these grants to meet their needs,” she wrote.

Celsi endorses Warren’s plan that would also transform 25,000 public schools to transition to the community school framework by 2030 using those “Excellence Grants.”

“Community schools are hubs of their community. Through school coordinators, they connect students and families with community partners to provide opportunities, support, and services inside and outside of the school. These schools center around wraparound services, family and community engagement, afterschool programs and expanded learning time, and collaborative leadership structures,” Warren explained.

Essentially Warren, and Celsi, want to see public schools become social services and community centers.

Warren also wants to ensure all schools are racially integrated and to do so by integrating communities. She writes:

Today in America, residential communities are highly segregated. Some believe that’s purely a result of people choosing to live close to other people who look like them. That’s wrong. Modern residential segregation is driven at least in part by income inequality and parents seeking out the best possible school districts for their children. By investing more money in our public schools — and helping ensure that every public school is a great one — my plan will address one of the key drivers of residential segregation.

Beyond that, my Housing Plan for America establishes a $10 billion competitive grant program that offers states and cities money to build parks, roads, and schools if they eliminate the kinds of restrictive zoning laws that can further racial segregation. And it includes a historic new down payment assistance program that promotes integration by giving residents of formerly redlined areas help to buy a home in any community they choose.

Warren said she would also incentivize states to “do the right thing” in integrating their schools:

My plan would also use federal education funding to encourage states to further integrate their schools. Under current law, states may use a portion of Title I funds to implement evidence-based interventions for low-performing schools. The data show that students at integrated schools perform better, so even in the absence of congressional action, my administration can and will use these provisions to encourage states to use that portion of Title I money on integration efforts of their own design. All told, that will add up to billions of dollars a year that states can use to promote residential and public school integration, including through the use of public magnet schools. 

Warren also pledges to bring back the guidance letters from the U.S. Department of Education providing additional federal mandates on states and local school districts.

Betsy DeVos rescinded dozens of guidelines intended to prevent discrimination and limited OCR’s capacity to give complaints the consideration they deserve. My administration will restore and expand OCR’s capacity, reinstate and update the rules and guidance revoked by DeVos, press for new protections for students, and give OCR clear marching orders to root out discrimination wherever it is found.

Celsi endorses a big expansion of the federal role into K-12 education, and for Iowa to be prodded into adopting these reforms in order to receive federal funding.

This sounds familiar. This is exactly the approach that the Obama administration took with federal education dollars in order to coerce states into adopting the Common Core State Standards, statewide student databases, and new assessments that are aligned with Common Core.

In Warren’s case her carrots will entice states to make changes with school finances, how they approach integration, and help some schools expand beyond just educating students.

That certainly would “blow up” what Secretary DeVos’ approach to education and it won’t be for the better.

And Celsi will seek to drive this vision at the state level.

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