NYC Educator, February 3, 2019
I'm kind of amazed at all the crap I read in the papers. Actually it's not so much what I read as what I don't. Presidential candidate Cory Booker supports absolutely everything DeVos does. He's a big fan of privatizing education.
In fact, he's one of the founding members of so-called Democrats for Education Reform, and helped them raise even more money (as though they needed it). If you don't know who they are, they're a bunch of hedge-funders who support privatizing education. Remember them every time you're observed and judged by junk science, because they're the ones who made it cool and profitable for Democrats to oppose working teachers.
What other qualifications does Booker have? He was on a board with Betsy DeVos, called the Alliance for School Choice. We all know this choice somehow involves abandoning public schools, and indeed, this group thought taxpayers should fund not only charters, but also private and religious schools. If you don't read that as anti-union, you probably don't know a whole lot of people working in such schools. I do. It's a much different culture in charters. Few teachers expect a career, and getting fired from one just means you get a gig in another. It's an everyday thing for them, I'd argue, at the expense of institutional memory and, of course, students.
Sure, Booker voted against DeVos for confirmation. It made him look good to Democrats who didn't know better, as though he opposed her programs, and also Trump's programs. The only thing is he said no such thing in his comments. He just said she was unable to make a coherent argument, a common flaw in fanatical ideologues who believe regardless of evidence. Fortunately for Booker, it was not his day to argue in favor of precisely the same things. The best I can say about Booker is I have faith he could rationalize his flawed positions better than DeVos did.
Booker agreed with former NJ Governor Chris Christie that the system was beholden to the teacher union. There was no daylight between Booker and Christie's education positions. I'm amazed, as I read the papers, that this is not even uttered a little bit. Democrats, supposedly, support working people. For Booker to promote the stereotype that we are some sort of special interest, working against the needs of the children we serve, places him squarely as our opponent.
Again, if you're tired of being observed to death and being rated on junk science, be advised that Booker was a strong supporter of Race to the Top. Man, I am sick of racing to the top. Most days I just want to teach. If you feel the pressure to teach to the test, it's likely because you remember all the school closings that accompanied negative test scores. It's likely you remember the wave of school closings right here in fun city. Who can forget entire staffs being sent out to wander the city as ATRs?
The notion that the only variable in the classroom is the teacher is part and parcel of the reformy philosophy embraced by Booker and his ilk. Bill Gates decided poverty was too tough to deal with, spread a bunch of money around, and opportunists like Booker jumped on the gravy train. Who cares if we end up vilifying working teachers, as long as we pretend to be helping the kids those working teachers serve every day?
Booker's support of vouchers alone should disqualify him as a Democratic candidate. Private schools are largely (if not completely) non-union. They pay considerably less and offer fewer benefits than union jobs. We don't need a Democrat who supports non-union jobs. For the most part, charters follow the same playbook. The best I can say about them is they have to at least pretend to be public schools. Most Democrats, like Obama, drew the line at vouchers. Booker can't even be bothered hitting this very low bar.
There was some funny business back when Booker was Mayor of Newark:
All the while, from 2006 to 2011, Booker was still receiving annual payments, which totaled close to $700,000, from his former law firm—Trenk, DiPasquale, Webster—from which he had resigned once elected mayor to avoid “the appearance of impropriety.” Booker’s campaign spokeswoman, Silvia Alvarez, told me: “He was paid out by the firm as part of his separation agreement for work he performed before he became mayor.” OK, sure, but while Booker was profiting from the firm, they were profiting from Newark: over $2 million in work for Newark’s Housing Authority, the Watershed Conservation Development Corporation, and a wastewater agency. “That’s almost like Sharpe James-type shit,” one New Jersey Democratic operative offered.
Sound fishy to you? It does to me. And what happened to the 100 million dollar Zuckerberg contribution to Newark, besides merit pay for teachers? It's hard to say. Booker would tell you it's been misrepresented, It doesn't seem to have been a glowing success, by any account other than Booker's staff.
Hey, if you thing teacher unions are representatives of Satan, if you think every educational woe is the fault of working teachers, if you think Betsy DeVos is a fine arbiter of educational policy, if you think junk science is a good metric for teachers, and if you think Americans should keep right on grossly overpaying for pharmaceuticals, Booker's your guy.
If you're a teacher, or a person who believes working people need union, or anyone who thinks the needs of We, the People are more important than those of hedge funders, pick someone else. Cory Booker is the very worst the Democrats have to offer, bar none.