By chance, two articles came to my attention today about two leading figures in the Reform movement who don’t want to be seen as Reformers any more. Have they really changed? Frankly, I am waiting for each of them to call a press conference and declare their support for public schools and renounce their past error in supporting charters (and in Booker’s case) vouchers. Even then, I would be dubious because both of them have motives that are politically expedient.

Cory Booker, as we know, was closely associated with Betsy DeVos. He was on school choice boards with her, attended her events, was feted as keynote speaker at the conservative Manhattan Institute, and has a long history demeaning public schools and unions. Just days ago, he attended a charter school rally in New Orleans. Just a few days ago is past history, right? But an article in Mother Jones suggests he may have changed his mind. What really burns me is that the writer compares Booker’s possible (but not sure) change of mind to my own change. I would like to point out that I had nothing to gain and everything to lose by publicly changing my views. I gave up a cushy position at the Hoover Institution and lost a lot of friends, as well as income, when I changed sides. I left the gravy train and took a stand with no assurance of any reward. Booker, on the other hand, has to change his views or face the wrath of the teachers, the unions, and parents who prefer public schools to corporate chains. You can’t run for president with the support of the parents of the 6% of kids in charter schools and expect to win.

Did Booker support vouchers? Of course he did. Education Week wrote an article on February 1, 2019, describing him thus:

Cory Booker, School Choice Fan and Ex-DeVos Ally, Is Running for President

A politician with a long track record of supporting vouchers and other forms of school choice will seek the White House in 2020—on the Democratic ticket.

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., announced Friday that he will seek the presidency. When it comes to education policy, Booker has an interesting and perhaps unique track record among the Democrats who will fight to take on President Donald Trump. Although much of that record was established before he was elected to the Senate in 2013, how he talks about that record, and how teachers’ unions react to his candidacy, will be worth watching.

Before coming to Congress, Booker was the mayor of Newark, N.J., from 2006 to 2013. During that time, he made his support for various forms of choice one of the key issues of his administration. In 2012, for example, we highlighted Booker as an example of how vouchers had gained a political foothold among Democrats at the state and local level. That year, he gave a speech to the American Federation for Children, a group formerly led by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos (more on her in a moment) that supports vouchers, in which he said that many children “by law are locked into schools that fail their genius.” And he co-founded a group, Excellent Education for Everyone, that backed charters and vouchers in New Jersey but fell short of its goals.

During his early political career, Booker also garnered support from Wall Street donors who took an interest in education policy. That group of donors eventually helped start Democrats for Education Reform, a group that supports charters and other forms of public school choice—Booker has served on its advisory board. However, some in the education community are suspicious of Booker’s Wall Street ties.

Then there is Rahm Emanuel. He says he used to prefer charters. But then he became Mayor of Chicago and learned that charters don’t hold all the answers. Now he says he likes all high-quality schools. Can we take the word of a man who says he has learned his lesson, that he now likes any kind of school as long as it produces high test scores? Why did he forget to mention that he closed 50 schools in one day? He was Mayor in 2013 when he did that. I imagine his tombstone: Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago who closed 50 schools in a day, a historic and shameful legacy. Maybe he is running for Secretary of Education in the next Democratic administration. Then he can revive Race to the Top and close even more schools in search of those “high-quality seats.”

Color me skeptical.