As LA Teachers Strike Over Charter Schools, Democrat Cory Booker Speaks at Pro-Charter Rally

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What a slap in the face!

 

 

In California, 30,000 Los Angeles teachers are on strike because charter schools are gobbling up their funding without providing the same level of quality services or accountability.

 

 

Meanwhile in New Orleans, Sen. Cory Booker is giving the keynote address at a charter school rally.

 

 

That wouldn’t be surprising if Booker was a Republican.

 

 

Donald Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is a big time champion of school privatization over public schools.

 

 

But like LA Superintendent Austin Beutner, Booker – a New Jersey lawmaker – is supposed to be a Democrat.

 

The party is supposed to stand for social goods, doing what’s best for everyone not just the few.

 

 

However, when Booker gave the keynote address at the “Project LIVE & Achieve” Rally for Excellence today, he made it clear whose side he’s on. And it’s not parents, children or communities.

 

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Organizers estimate 5,000 students from more than 20 city charter schools attended the rally instead of attending their classes.

 

Traditional public schools aren’t allowed to spend tax dollars or waste class time by forcing students to attend political rallies. But since charter schools like all of New Orleans schools after Hurricane Katrina don’t have to follow the same rules, this is your tax dollars at work.

 

The rally was hosted by InspireNOLA Charter Schools and U.S. Representative Cedric Richmond, a Louisiana Democrat.

 

The charter network’s Website describes the rally as part of InspireNOLA’s celebration of Martin Luther King weekend.

 

What a disgrace!

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Dr. Yohuru Williams, a professor of history at Fairfield University in Connecticut and an MLK scholar, has written extensively about how school privatization and high stakes testing are in direct contradiction with Dr. King’s writings and speeches.

 

“While it seeks to claim the mantle of the [civil rights] movement and Dr. King’s legacy, corporate education reform is rooted in fear, fired by competition and driven by division,” says Williams. “It seeks to undermine community rather than build it and, for this reason, it is the ultimate betrayal of the goals and values of the movement.”

 

 

Dr. King certainly wouldn’t have approved of today’s rally. After all, King said:

 

“To save man from the morass of propaganda is one of the chief aims of education. Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.”

 

Forcing children to go to a political rally and then pretending their mandatory presence is somehow a show of support is exactly the kind of propaganda King was railing against.

 

“The function of education,” King explained in 1947, “is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically.”

 

Booker, who clearly has ambitions of a Presidential run, has violated those principles time and again.

 

Before he became a U.S. Senator, he was Newark mayor. In that position he accepted a $100 million donation from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to implement a series of drastic reforms in city schools.

 

 

The people of Newark only found out about it on Oprah Winfrey’s TV show when Booker was a guest and announce the grant. Almost all of that money went to charter schools, according to the New Republic.

 

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Such publicity stunts and mugging for the cameras may be why The Gaurdian even described Booker as a “neoliberal egomaniac.”

 

 

While numerous corporate Democrats like Booker share his love of charter schools, his positions go even further to the right. Like DeVos, with whom he sat on the board of pro-privatization Alliance for School Choice, he also is a proponent of school vouchers. This despite any credible evidence that voucher programs actually create better educational outcomes for students.

 

 

And Devos isn’t the only radical right privatization-monger in Booker’s circle. Michelle Rhee, the former DC schools chancellor known for union busting and a series of reforms that resulted in a citywide cheating scandal, is someone Booker calls “a friend of mine”

 

 

Though as a Senator, Booker held the party line and voted against his long-time friend DeVos’ nomination as Education Secretary, he told CNN that he hadn’t changed his position on school privatization:

 

 

“When it comes to my record of supporting what I believe that any child born in any zip code in America should have a high quality school and I don’t care if that’s a charter school or a traditional district school. If it’s a bad school I’m going to fight against it just like I supported charter school closures in Newark that weren’t serving the genius of my kids. So I haven’t changed one iota.”

 

 

Yet his record flies in the face of his rhetoric.

 

 

As Newark Mayor he privileged charter schools and helped them spread throughout the city while underfunding traditional public schools. And though he continually brings up the “amazing” academic record of Newark’s charter schools, he strangely omits the a cheating scandal they experienced similar to Rhee’s.

 

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According to a report by the state Department of Education’s Office of Fiscal Accountability and Compliance, testing documents were not secured at these schools. State investigators flagged at least 15 charter schools for further inquiry because some tests had unusually high rates of wrong-to-right erasure marks. One school had rates more than three times greater than the state average.

 

 

Charter schools are often run by appointed officials and not elected school boards. They meet behind closed doors and never have to explain how and why they’re spending taxpayer dollars. Though much hand wringing has been done over charters that are explicitly run for a profit, even those designated “not for profit” can cut students services and pocket the difference. There are a multitude of ways these schools can cheat students out of the resources and educations they deserve while protecting the administrators and business people making a buck off them.

 

In LA, administrators like Buetner – who has no experience with education but is a millionaire investor in school privatization – actually sabotage the public schools in order to feed the profit-making machine of charters.

 

And now the opposition to these shenanigans is spilling into the streets in both red and blue states. There have been seven major teacher protests in the last year in states like Arizona, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and now California.

 

It’s past time for Democrats to take a stand along with them and oppose school privatization in all of its forms.

 

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Yet when The Intercept asked all 47 members of the Senate Democratic Caucus to weigh in on the LA Teacher strike and charter school proliferation, only 7 responded.

 

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif. have made no bones about the connection. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., also expressed support for striking teachers, even tweeting a link to a Jacobin article about school privatization. Though didn’t mention charter’s directly, he has  spoken out about school privatization before, including last year when Puerto Rico announced its plans to open charter schools in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

 

The problem is that many Democrats won’t go that far. They’ll say they support LA Teachers but won’t admit that school privatization is the cause of their woes. They refuse to take a stand against the billionaire backers of the industry and side with the grassroots parents and children fighting for fully public schools.

 

However, few go as far as Booker to openly champion the industry.

 

At least, few Democrats.


 

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31 thoughts on “As LA Teachers Strike Over Charter Schools, Democrat Cory Booker Speaks at Pro-Charter Rally

  1. So disheartening. I came across a comment on Twitter yesterday that was something to the effect of “Even Cory Booker has quit touting charter schools.” Obviously incorrect.

    Thank you for this.

    Like

  2. You all are sorely misinformed about New Orleans schools and this rally.

    #1 ALL of New Orleans Public Schools are charter schools. I’M NOT SAYING THATS GOOD, but if you’re a child in New Orleans you either go to a private school or a charter school.

    #2 InspireNOLA specializes in transformation. The CEO and school leaders are all former classroom teachers and school administrators. They purposely take on failing schools. The student bodies are incredibly diverse with some of the highest ELL and SPED student populations in the city.

    #3 PROJECTLive is a STUDENT LED organization attempting to eliminate gun violence in the city of New Orleans. The purpose of this rally was to encourage and inspire students to take control of their futures, and to avoid or minimize gun violence that is incredibly rampant in New Orleans among teens.

    Now I am and educator. I’M NOT pro-charter schools, and there are certainly some schools doing the children in the city of New Orleans a huge disservice, but InspireNOLA is not one of them.

    Like

    • Thanks for commenting, R Jenee. It’s funny, isn’t it? Charter schools sell themselves as “School Choice” but their banner district New Orleans has no choice. It’s charter or else. Very telling.

      So THIS charter is one of the good ones, huh? You’d be surprised how many of the bad ones try to pull that one, too. But let’s say you’re right. That’s great. A charter just decides to do the right thing. I’m glad. It doesn’t have to, mind you. There’s no force of law compelling it to do these good things. It’s just the goodness of the hearts of the people who work there. I sure hope they never leave or that less progressive leadership doesn’t take over. Now at a fully public school none of that would be an issue. The law is the law. You do it right or else you face the courts. But I’m sure relying on goodwill alone has never had any drawbacks and is much better than representative government.

      THIS rally was about minimizing gun violence? Wonderful. I hope they write their lawmakers asking for sensible gun regulations. Because when you put it all on the kids, you’re abrogating your responsibilities as a society.

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      • I fully agree with you. Before moving to New Orleans I worked in traditional public schools and things were a lot different. I also worked for a charter that wasn’t serving the kids appropriately and it was exhausting and infuriating. The absence of “choice” and community is my issue with New Orleans’ schools. The charters aren’t really that different. There’s basically “failing” and “high preforming”, and most of the “high performing” schools are either not open admission, or they have ridiculous waiting lists.

        And this rally is just one of the things PROJECTLive has done. The students have also marched to government buildings, and conducted various protest. I don’t think rallies like this are the answer to gun violence by any means, but the children feel the need to do something. It makes some of them feel like they have some degree of power

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  3. This is an incredibly false narrative. Here is what the rally is for per the verbiage on your own linked article:

    Project LIVE & Achieve is a comprehensive program bringing schools, community groups and faith organizations together to promote non-violence, academic success, high expectations and community involvement, with the main goal being to decreasing violence impacting New Orleans youth and to strive for higher academic outcomes for students.

    It is not a pro-charter school rally.

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    • Tom, the privatization brigade uses dogwhistles and innuendo to get its messages across. When they say “achieve” and “strive for better academic outcomes” what do you think they mean? They aren’t offering study tips. They are touting the so-called benefits of charter schools. That is the purpose of the rally. Everything else is just window dressing. It is what they’ve done for over a decade. It’s what they’re still doing today. When Trump is pushing for the Wall, his people don’t describe it like that. They call it pushing for border security. Same bull crap, different party.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I live in NJ, Corey is my Senator. He’s on the right side of many issues I care about. I’m glad he’s my Senator_for those issues. But, as a resident of NJ, I’m all too acquainted with his corporatist leanings. Therefore, he will not be my choice for President. Scenes like those photographed above make me flat-out angry.

    Like

  5. Cory Booker is a “New Republican” — He is what all reactionaries and corporatists dream about–a moderate, compromising Democrat who is willing to suspend what little popular activism he possesses in order to still “play ball” and enjoy support from the “high rollers.” He is a corporatist Democrat who’s too far to the right of where we need to go today.

    Liked by 2 people

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