Cory Booker on Education



Urban school districts are beholden to public worker union

[In a joint tour of Newark during Chris Christie's gubernatorial campaign], Mayor Booker turned to Christie and proposed that they work together to transform education in Newark. Together, they could close failing district schools, greatly expand charter schools, and weaken tenure protections -- an agenda the incumbent Democratic governor, Jon Corzine, likely never would have embraced, out of loyalty to teachers' unions. Christie's upset victory over Corzine, in Booker's view, represented "a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get the system on the right track."

Booker warned that they would face a brutal fight with unions and machine politicians invested in the status quo. Whatever their political differences, Booker and Christie agreed completely on public education. Both viewed Urban school districts as beholden to public workers' unions and political patronage rather than children.

Source: The Prize: America's Schools, by Dale Russakoff, pp. 5-6 , Sep 8, 2015

Star fundraiser for Democrats for Education Reform

Booker's 2002 campaign inspired hedge-fund managers to seek out and support more Democrats who embraced charter schools and opposed the influence of teachers' unions on the party. They ultimately formed a political action committee, Democrats for Education Reform, with Booker as one of their star fundraisers. The group's beneficiaries would come to include the 2004 Senate candidate, Barack Obama.

These "venture philanthropists" and called themselves investors rather than donors, seeking returns in the form of sweeping changes to public schooling. President Obama incorporated many of these goals into Race to the Top [with] single-minded focus on what was best for children, even at the expense of upending adult lives and livelihoods.

In the beginning, Democratic politicians almost universally spurned the cause, as did many African-American leaders, perceiving these efforts as threats to the Democratic base in cities: unions, public sector jobs, and politicians who doled them out.

Source: The Prize: America's Schools, by Dale Russakoff, pp. 9 & 13 , Sep 8, 2015

Ensure that college tuition is not a long-term burden

The very fact that Congress has been paralyzed in the face of student loan rates that are set to double is only the latest piece of evidence that we are not putting education first. The situation is absolutely unacceptable: Tuition rates are climbing and student loan debt has topped over a trillion dollars nationally. More than 100,000 low-income students are denied the ability to go to college every year, and a typical low-income family dedicates the equivalent of more than 70 percent of its annual income to send a child to college for a year. Here in New Jersey, as in many states, there has been a massive spike in college enrollment paired with steep cuts in state support, putting tremendous pressure on tuition.

As your Senator, I will support access to the education our kids need to succeed by doing all I can to ensure paying for that education is not a barrier or long-term burden.

Source: 2013-2014 New Jersey Senate campaign web CoryBooker.com , Nov 3, 2013

Pre-school for 3-year-olds; more teacher empowerment

We have a lot to be proud of in Newark, including:
Source: 2013-2014 New Jersey Senate campaign web CoryBooker.com , Nov 3, 2013

Fundamental right to high quality public education

I believe that access to a high quality public education is a fundamental American right and that fully realizing the genius of our children is vital to the health of our economy and a strong and secure future for our country. Knowing this, I pulled together stakeholders from across our city and nation to develop strategies and take action for our kids. I then went out and raised over $200 million to launch initiatives that would help our public schools meet their enormous obligations.
Source: 2013-2014 New Jersey Senate campaign web CoryBooker.com , Nov 3, 2013

Newark Workshops got $1.3M in Pell Grants

We must do more to make college more affordable for anyone who is seeking to advance their education. Ensuring more ready access to college is not only about providing all Americans with an opportunity to succeed, but is also an investment in our economy

As Mayor, I established a program at Newark's Financial Empowerment Center that reached more than 1,000 college-bound Newarkers through financial aid workshops. It has helped Newark students receive approximately $1.3 million in Pell Grant awards.

Source: 2013-2014 New Jersey Senate campaign web CoryBooker.com , Nov 3, 2013

Supports "Race to the Top" education reform

Booker's major substantive difference with many progressives is on education policy. He is -- like President Obama -- an advocate of the "education reform" movement; he has backed New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's expansion of charter schools and merit pay for teachers, as well as a form of vouchers for some impoverished areas. He sits on the board of Democrats for Education Reform. During last summer's Democratic convention, Booker spoke at an event hosted by lightning-rod former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, who teachers unions see as working to privatize public education and undermine collective bargaining. The school-reform issue is the subject of a major schism in today's Democratic Party; Obama's "Race to the Top" education initiative, which has encouraged state-level reforms, has infuriated traditional Democratic allies but also drawn support from many party officeholders.
Source: The Atlantic, "Why Do Liberals Hate Booker," by Molly Ball, , Aug 23, 2013

Supports school voucher proposal, like other Democrats

U.S. Reps. Frank Pallone and Rush Holt took some shots at Booker, mostly for his support of a school voucher proposal offered by Gov. Chris Christie. "I very much disagree with Mayor Booker on this. I do not believe that vouchers are the answer," Pallone said. "I'm very concerned about how vouchers, which he supports, will take away funding from public schools. I believe in public schools."

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.

Source: Star-Ledger coverage of 2013 N.J. Senate debate , Aug 5, 2013

Brother runs a charter school in inner-city Memphis

Booker tells me about his admiration for his brother, Cary, who runs a charter school in inner-city Memphis. "My brother's done a great job of staying loyal to his truth," he says. "He's a much more humble guy than I am. He's just sort of a plodding, determined soul, trying to make a difference in as many people's lives as possible."
Source: Vogue magazine profile, "Local Hero Cory Booker" , Dec 19, 2012

Arranged $100M school grant from Facebook founder Zuckerberg

An annual conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, hosted by Allen & Company, a private investment firm founded in 1922, is a gathering of leaders from business, politics, and other spheres of influence. An invitation tells the world you have arrived, as attendees for the 29th conference included the likes of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, and Oprah Winfrey.

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.

Source: Rise to Power, by B. Ingle & M. Symons, p.207-208 , Jun 5, 2012

Supports school vouchers

In ads, Newark Mayor Sharpe James' campaign reinforces the idea that Booker was a media construction who shirked his responsibilities as councilman and was not as ethical as he claimed. James also made substantive policy attacks that had implicit racial and class ramifications. In a piece criticizing Booker's support of school vouchers, James calls him a Republican, highlights the fact that he's a privileged child of the suburbs, and labels him a hypocrite. He then concludes by saying that "Booker can't be for real." Clearly, the James campaign was using a substantive issue to imply that Booker's policies were incongruent with the interests of urban blacks, thus creating a chasm between Booker and the rest of Newark.
Source: The New Black Politician, by Andra Gillespie, p. 77 , May 7, 2012

2010: Appointed to oversee $100M donation to Newark schools

Gov. Christie made an appearance on Oprah with Newark Mayor Cory Booker to accept a $100 million gift from Mark Zuckerberg, who started up the wildly successful social network Facebook. Zuckerberg's appearance on Oprah Winfrey was just one of the latest examples of celebrities or wealthy philanthropists jumping on board the education bandwagon.

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.

Source: Teachers Under Attack!, by Mike Spina, p.142-143 , Feb 17, 2011

OpEd: $100M gift to Newark schools was a publicity sellout

[After receiving $100 million from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg as a donation to the Newark public schools,] the first thing that Booker did was to order a survey of the Newark community to find out what was wrong with public education in Newark. An organization called PENewark spent over $1 million conducting the survey, which was later called too vague by scientific experts to relay any meaningful information. So after spending $500,000 on advertising and another $500,000 on salaries, Newark has to conduct the survey again, this time with the help of education experts from Rutgers and NYU.

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.

Source: Teachers Under Attack!, by Mike Spina, p.143 , Feb 17, 2011

Supervises Newark schools by gubernatorial appointment

The mayors taking control of school districts: "It would politicize the entire system. It would start making decisions even more political than they are today, especially in our large cities. In NJ, we have enough rules and regulations and laws that require certain backgrounds, certain certifications for you to be running a public school system. Booker doesn't have them."

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.

Source: Teachers Under Attack!, by Mike Spina, p.166 , Feb 17, 2011

$120 million for "Teachers Village" where educators live

In progress [under Booker's mayoral office]: a $120 million plan to create a "Teachers Village," with charter schools as well as housing and retail that will be marketed to educators from nearby colleges like Rutgers and Seton Hall, giving them some incentive to live where they work.
Source: Oprah Magazine on 2013 N.J. Senate race , Sep 1, 2010

Founded the Newark Charter School Fund

Q: I hear that the state is cutting back on school funding, and that the schools are laying off workers. Are our kids going to suffer?

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.

Source: 2010 Introduced Budget: Mayor's Commentary Press Release , Feb 9, 2010

Charters & alternatives for persistently failing schools

In Newark, there are many models of success and we are aggressively working to replicate and expand them. Last year, Newark was selected as one of three cities for a huge investment in our charter schools. The goal is to make our entire charter school sector in Newark high quality in accordance with the highest and most uncompromising standards and outcomes and work to expand those schools so more Newark youth can have high quality choice.

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.

Source: Cory Booker Blog, "A Hard Look at Education" , May 11, 2009

Vouchers and charters can work in inner cities

I have always been, up until maybe four or five years ago, a strong advocate for the old-fashioned way of educating children. I supported public schools only. Even charter schools made me a little uncomfortable when I first heard about them. But after four or five years of working in inner city Newark, I began to rethink my situation, rethink my philosophy, rethink my views on public education, simply because of the realities I saw around me. Being outcome-focused started to change my view in favor of options like charter schools, contract schools and, yes, vouchers.

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.

Source: Manhattan Institute Civic Bulletin No. 25, "School Choice" , Feb 1, 2001

Make two years of community college free.

Booker signed making two years of community college free

Excerpts from press release from Tammy Baldwin, Senate sponsor: The America's College Promise Act makes two years of community college free by:

Community, technical, and tribal colleges enroll 40% of all college students today. Community colleges are uniquely positioned to partner with employers to create tailored training programs to meet economic needs within their communities such as nursing and advanced manufacturing.

Opposing argument: (Cato Institute, "College Courtesy of the Taxpayer? No Thanks," Jan. 9, 2015): One look at either community college outcomes or labor market outlooks reveals free college to be educational folly. Community college completion rates are atrocious: a mere 19.5% of community college students complete their programs. Meanwhile, the for-profit sector has an almost 63% completion rate. And [about 70%] of the new job categories in coming years will require a high school diploma or less.

Opposing argument: (Heritage Foundation, "Free Community College Is a Bad Deal", July 15, 2016): Free college proposals would subject community colleges to the same types of subsidies-induced inflation endemic at four-year institutions. And low-income students already have access to federal Pell Grants, which can cover the bulk of community college tuition. By contrast, a more open market of alternative schooling models, such as online or vocational education programs, could better tailor degrees at a lower cost.

Source: America's College Promise Act 15-S1716 on Jul 8, 2015

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Other big-city mayors on Education: Cory Booker on other issues:

Tom Barrett (D,Milwaukee)
Bill de Blasio (D,NYC)
Rahm Emanuel (D,Chicago)
Bob Filner (D,San Diego)
Steven Fulop (D,Jersey City)
Eric Garcetti (D,Los Angeles)
Mike Rawlings (D,Dallas)
Marty Walsh (D,Boston)

Former Mayors:
Rocky Anderson (I,Salt Lake City)
Tom Barrett (D,Milwaukee,WI)
Mike Bloomberg (I,New York City)
Cory Booker (D,Newark,NJ)
Jerry Brown (D,Oakland,CA)
Julian Castro (D,San Antonio,TX)
Rudy Giuliani (R,New York City)
Phil Gordon (D,Phoenix)
Tom Menino (D,Boston)
Dennis Kucinch (D,Cleveland,OH)
Michael Nutter (D,Philadelphia)
Sarah Palin (R,Wasilla,AK)
Annise Parker (D,Houston)
Jerry Sanders (R,San Diego)
Antonio Villaraigosa (D,Los Angeles)
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Page last updated: Sep 12, 2018