Cory Booker on Education
When Booker responded that he, too, believes in public schools and that he helped bring $100 million in philanthropic funds into the city's school system, Booker said both Pallone and Holt had voted in favor of the Washington DC Opportunity Scholarship Program--a voucher-like program that gives scholarships to low-income children. "While they're criticizing me I'd like them both to explain why they voted for the same position I have," Booker said. The vote Booker referenced was actually a much larger appropriations bill that included the program.
Newark mayor Cory Booker was there. A year before, a chance meeting in a conference buffet line led to Zuckerberg's offering a $100 million matching grant for Newark schools. It was announced on Winfrey's show amid much hoopla, which some say was to drown out the opening of a movie, "The Social Network," that showed Zuckerberg in a bad light.
"We had lunch, and just gave him a quick update on the progress," Booker said. He also said Zuckerberg was pleased with progress being made in Newark schools.
What is disturbing, however, is the ease with which celebrities and national figures have disparaged public education. What do they know about the issue other than what the read or hear? The last time any of them probably stepped in a classroom was when they attended high school.
The money Zuckerberg donated to the Newark schools came with certain restrictions. The biggest restriction was that Zuckerberg wanted a say on how the schools were run. And his first demand was that Booker be put in charge of the schools. Of course, NJ state law prevents that. So Christie had to get creative, and named Booker as his representative to the Newark schools.
Zuckerberg's monumental gift was played for all the publicity it could get on Oprah Winfrey's show and it certainly did help the public forget about the Race to the Top fiasco. But the fact that Christie and Booker were selling out to Zuckerberg in order to get their hands on his money did not sit well with many educators.
No, Booker doesn't have certification as a school administrator. Perhaps that's why Governor Christie is pushing, as one of the staples of his education reform agenda, to make it easier for principals and school leaders to gain certification by going through an alternate route. Alternative route programs generally mean that prospects are not required to earn college credits by taking courses in education or to have the appropriate educational experience that would be needed to run a school system.
A: The City and school budgets are separate, and the schools are under State control. The Mayor and the Council have no say over school personnel decisions. There is no question, though, that we should be concerned about the education afforded to Newark's children. The Mayor has spent much of his energy and focus on improving the educational environment in the City. He has founded the Newark Charter School Fund, identified financial support for five new alternative schools, launched the Teacher Next project, create the YES Center, and runs the annual Mayor's Achievement Challenge.
We have recently begun a small school initiative for our high school students who are at risk of dropping out. Further, among other things, our new superintendent is looking to expand our magnet schools of excellence which have long waiting lists and completely reorganize our persistently failing schools.
I challenge anybody to come into my city and walk with me and simply talk to these inner-city single mothers. You will see that they care more about the education of their children and are more informed than suburban soccer moms are in the towns where I grew up. They know what it is going to take to help their children achieve the American dream. They believe in [education and vouchers], and they still hold onto it.
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