The Haverford School’s leafy campus, arched doorways, and neatly uniformed boys would seem to denote the sort of class and privilege that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) has decried on the campaign trail.
That may be why Warren, confronted by a school-choice activist in November, denied that her kids had attended private schools. The 2020 Democratic hopeful insisted that "my kids went to public school"—a half-truth, at best, that obscures a reality at odds with her image as a scrappy public school teacher-turned-populist crusader.
While Warren’s daughter, Amelia Warren Tyagi, attended public schools for the entirety of her elementary and high school education, her son, Alex Warren, spent the majority of his formative years at one of the country’s most elite private schools, the Haverford School, according to yearbooks obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
Located in suburban Philadelphia, the all-boys college preparatory school employs a "rigorous liberal arts curriculum" that recognizes boys' "innate competitiveness," according to the school's website. High school tuition runs $39,500 a year. Notable alumni include billionaire scions Ronald Perelman and John Middleton, two-time Medal of Honor recipient Smedley Darlington Butler, and Free Beacon chairman Michael Goldfarb.
Alex Warren attended the school for six years, from 1988—when he began as a sixth grader—until his graduation in 1994, the yearbooks show. He spent his junior year in Boston when Warren accepted an invitation to teach at Harvard Law School for a year in 1992. In her book A Fighting Chance, Warren wrote that her son "took the opportunity to reinvent himself at a new high school."
The Warren campaign did not respond to questions about her son's education, including where he studied during his year-long absence from Haverford. The prep school declined comment, citing its privacy policies.
The revelation comes as Warren, who a month ago was threatening to overtake former Vice President Joe Biden as the frontrunner in national polls, is struggling to maintain her momentum. And minorities, particularly African-American and Latino voters, are expressing increasing frustration with the leading Democratic presidential candidates, including Warren, for abandoning support for charter schools, according to a New York Times report.
That tension was on display in Atlanta when Sarah Carpenter, the African-American executive director of Memphis Lift, a volunteer school-choice organization, told Warren, "We want the same choice for our kids that you had for your kids.... I can’t pack up and say, 'I'm leaving Hyde Park and going to Germantown,'—that’s our suburban area—because I can’t afford it, my daughter can’t afford it."
"Elizabeth Warren's current problems are a microcosm of a bigger issue for the Democratic Party in general," said Corey DeAngelis, director of school choice at the libertarian Reason Foundation. "The left says that they want to help the poor, which is a noble goal, but then most of their candidates push hard against giving the disadvantaged populations more educational options."
The public school Warren decided against sending her son to was far from failing. Property records indicate Alex Warren would have attended Lower Merion High School, a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence cited by the Wall Street Journal as "one of the top 50 schools—public or private in the United States." Notable alumni include Kobe Bryant and Gong Show host Chuck Barris.
Warren has leaned heavily on her background as a public school teacher on the stump. She touted her status as "the only person on this stage who has been a public school teacher" during September's Democratic debate.
"I’ve wanted to be a public school teacher since I was in second grade. And let’s be clear in all the ways we talk about this: Money for public schools should stay in public schools, not go anywhere else," Warren said.
Warren's campaign has also emphasized her own experience as a public school student and later, as a teacher. In October, just after Warren announced her education plan, it began offering "Public School Made Me" stickers, with the candidate crediting public schools for her success in life.
"This plan is close to my heart, because I attended public school growing up in Oklahoma," Warren said in an email to supporters. "Every opportunity I've had—including running for president—started with a good education from a public school."
In her book The Two Income Trap, the Massachusetts senator supported vouchers that would have allowed parents to choose among schools.
"A taxpayer-funded voucher that paid the entire cost of educating a child (not just a partial subsidy) would open a range of opportunities to all children," Warren wrote. "With fully funded vouchers, parents of all income levels could send their children – and the accompanying financial support – to the schools of their choice."
She reversed that position as she launched her presidential campaign. Her education plan, which has won the support of the country's most powerful teachers' unions, calls for the "aggressive oversight" of charter schools and vows to eliminate federal funding for charter school expansion.
Those unions, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, have been generous donors to Warren’s presidential campaign, giving nearly $70,000 combined.