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PUBLIC EDUCATION GROUPS WILL HOST TOP DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES AT 2020 PUBLIC EDUCATION FORUM

MSNBC Will MODERATE AND LIVESTREAM PITTSBURGH FORUM
ON DEC. 14

 

 

PITTSBURGH—The Network for Public Education Action will join with other public education groups, unions, civil rights organizations and community groups to host a forum for Democratic presidential candidates on Saturday December 14 in Pittsburgh. 

The “Public Education Forum 2020: Equity and Justice for All” will be held at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh. MSNBC will moderate and exclusively livestream the forum on public education issues.

Ali Velshi, host of “MSNBC Live,” and Rehema Ellis, NBC News education correspondent, will serve as the forum’s moderators, together interviewing candidates on priority issues facing students, educators and parents in public education today. The event will be streamed live on NBC News Now, MSNBC.com and NBC News Learn, and will be featured across MSNBC programming.

Each candidate will provide opening remarks and then answer questions from Velshi and Ellis, forum attendees and others from across the country who submitted questions.

 

WHO:              

Alliance for Educational Justice

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees

American Federation of Teachers

Center for Popular Democracy Action

Journey for Justice Alliance

NAACP

National Education Association

Network for Public Education Action

Schott Foundation for Public Education—Opportunity to Learn Action Fund

Service Employees International Union

Voto Latino

 

WHAT:            Public Education Forum 2020: Equity and Justice for All

 

WHEN:            Dec. 14, 10 a.m.

 

WHERE:          David L. Lawrence Convention Center

1000 Fort Duquesne Blvd.

Pittsburgh, PA 15222

 

 

On November 26, the New York Times published an article that had this headline: ‘Minority Voters Chafe As Democratic Candidates Abandon Charter Schools.’

The point of the article was that many black and Latino families are very disappointed that all the Democratic candidates have turned their backs on charter schools, excepting Cory Booker, currently polling around 1-2%. The article was especially critical of Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who have, as the article put it, “vowed to curb charter school growth.”

The article implied that the shift was due to the candidates’ pursuit of the support of the teachers’ unions, and charter schools are mostly non-union. Thus, if you want the union vote, you oppose non-union charters. (In my experience, neither the AFT nor the NEA is anti-charter, since they seek to organize charters to join their unions and have had some modest success; still, about 90% of charters are non-union.)

The article was prompted by an organized disruption of a speech in Atlanta by Elizabeth Warren, who was talking about a washerwomen’s strike in Atlanta in 1881, led by black women. The disruption was led by Howard Fuller, who, as the article notes, has received many millions from rightwing foundations, not only the Waltons but the Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee, to sell vouchers and charters to black families.

Not until paragraph 25 does the article mention that the national NAACP, the nation’s largest organization representing black families, called for a charter moratorium in 2016. That fact alone should raise the question of how representative the protestors are.

I wrote this post about the article. The gist of my complaint was that the Times’ article gave the impression that black and Latino families are clamoring for more charters, when in reality there are many cities in which black and Hispanic families are protesting the destruction of their public schools and the loss of democratic control of their schools.

I questioned why the article relied on a five-year-old press release from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools as evidence for its claim that the “wait list” for charter schools was in the “hundreds of thousands.” Actually, the 2014 press release from the charter advocacy group said the “wait list” topped one million students. My comment was that “wait lists” have never been audited or verified and that a claim by a lobbying group is not evidence.

I added to my post a commentary by Robert Kuttner, the editor of the American Prospect,  who was also critical of the article.

Both Kuttner and I heard from a reporter from the New York Times. In the response posted below, he acknowledges he made an error in citing poll data in the article, without reading the underlying poll.

I heard from one of the writers of the Times article. She said my post had many inaccuracies. I invited her to write a response and promised I would post it in full. I pleaded with her to identify any inaccuracies in my post and said I would issue a correction. She did not send a response that I could post nor a list of my “inaccuracies.”

The Times posted an article last July about the growing backlash against charter schools. But I do not think the Times has exhausted the question of why the charter “movement” is in decline.  It would surely be interesting if the Times wrote a story about why the NAACP took a strong stand against charter expansion, despite the funding behind charters. Or why Black Lives Matter opposes privatization and supports democratic control of schools. Or why black families in Little Rock, Chicago, Houston, and other cities are fighting charter expansion. None of those families are funded by the Waltons, Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Charles Koch, or Michael Bloomberg, so they don’t organize buses to take hundreds or thousands of people to demonstrations.

The Times should take note of the fact that white Southern Republicans have made the charter issue their own, and they are using it to recreate segregated schools. Indeed, the Republican party has made charter schools and vouchers the centerpiece of their education agenda, and Democrats in most state legislatures have resisted that agenda and support public schools. There is also the fact that DeVos and Trump are pushing charters and school choice even as they dismantle civil rights protections.

I wish the Times had noticed a court decision in Mississippi a few months ago that upheld the right of the state to take tax money away from the predominantly black public schools of Jackson, Mississippi (which are 96-97% black), and give it to charter schools authorized by the state, not the district. They might note that the sole black justice on the Mississippi Supreme Court, Justice Leslie King, dissented from that decision. The district, under black leadership, fought that decision and lost. The black parents of Jackson, Mississippi, are fighting for adequate funding of their public schools, while the white Republicans in state government are imposing charter schools.

In Justice Leslie King’s dissenting opinion, which Justice James Kitchens joined, he wrote “This Court should not be a rubber stamp for Legislative policies it agrees with when those policies are unconstitutional.”

Public school districts in Mississippi receive local funding from ad valorem tax receipts. When a student enrolls in a charter school, which is a free public school, money that would have gone to the district follows the student to the charter school instead.

My view is that we need a great public school in every neighborhood, with experienced teachers, a full curriculum, a vibrant arts program, a nurse, and all the resources they need for the students they enroll. I think that charter schools should be authorized by districts to meet their needs and supervised by district officials to be sure that there is full transparency and accountability for the academic program, the discipline policies, and the finances. Charter schools should complement public schools, not compete with them or supplant them.

Here is Robert Kuttner’s second commentary on the article:

americanprospect

 

DECEMBER 2, 2019

Kuttner on TAP

Charter Schools and the Times: a Correction and Further Reflections. I made an error in my On Tap post last week on the New York Times feature piece on black public opinion and charter schools.

My post criticized the Times for publishing a page-one story with an exaggerated headline, “Minority Voters Feel Betrayed Over Schools.”

The Times piece cited a poll showing black support for charter schools at 47 percent. My mistake was to infer from this figure that black support and opposition were about equally divided. As one of the story’s authors pointed out in an email, the actual poll showed support at 47 percent, opposition at 29 percent, and no opinion or similar for the rest.

That 29 percent opposed figure was not mentioned in the Times piece. Nonetheless, I should have pursued the underlying poll and reported it, and not just made assumptions. I regret the error.

That said, polling results vary widely depending on the wording and framing of the question, the sponsor of the poll, and the context. For instance, a poll by the Public Policy Institute of California, in a state that has more charters than any other, reverses the finding of the Education Next poll cited by the Times. In California, blacks, with just 36 percent support, were far less likely to support charters than whites.

One of the two polls that the Times linked to used the phrase “public charter schools.” Most charter schools are public only in their taxpayer funding; their actual accountability to public systems varies widely. Many are for-profit, or nominally nonprofit but managed by for-profit management companies.

Another poll, which my post cited, by Peter Hart Associates (for the American Federation of Teachers), finds that black parents are strongly opposed to the idea of reducing funds for public schools and redirecting them to charters, which is often the practical impact of increased spending on charters. As this study shows, the practical effect of charters, in a climate of fiscal scarcity, is often precisely to divert funds from public schools.

I owe our readers a much deeper look at the charter school controversy, as well as error-free reading of polls. Both will be forthcoming. ~ ROBERT KUTTNER

Robert Kuttners new book is The Stakes: 2020 and the Survival of American Democracy.

Follow Robert Kuttner on Twitter

Many people have written to me to complain about an article that appeared Wednesday on the front page of the New York Times, saying it was pro-charter propaganda. The article claims that black and brown parents are offended that the Democratic candidates (with the exception of Cory Booker, now polling at 1%) have turned their backs on charter schools.

This is not true. Black parents in Little Rock, Arkansas, are fighting at this very moment to stop the Walton-controlled state government from controlling their district and re-segregating it with charter schools. Jitu Brown and his allies fought to keep Rahm Emanuel from closing Walter Dyett High School, the last open enrollment public high school on the South Side of Chicago; they launched a 34-day hunger strike, and Rahm backed down. Jitu Brown’s Journey for Justice Alliance has organized black parents in 25 cities to fight to improve their neighborhood public schools rather than let them be taken over by corporate charter chains. Black parents in many other districts–think  Detroit–are disillusioned with the failed promises of charter schools. Eve Ewing wrote a terrific book (Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago’s South Side) about resistance by parents, grandparents, students, and teachers in the black community to Rahm Emanuel’s mass closings of public schools to make way for charter schools; Ewing called their response “institutional mourning.” When Puerto Rico teetered on the verge of bankruptcy, parents, teachers, and students rallied against efforts to turn the Island’s public schools over to charter chains.

The article’s claim that “hundreds of thousands” of students are on “waiting lists” to enroll in charters links to a five-year-old press release by a charter advocacy group, the National Alliance for Charter Schools. In fact, there has never been verification of any “wait list” for charters. Although there are surely charters that do have wait lists, just as there are public schools that have long wait lists, there is no evidence that hundreds of thousands of students are clamoring to gain admission to charters. That claim appears to be a marketing ploy. Earlier this year, a member of the Los Angeles school board revealed that 80% of the charters in that city have empty seats. Just this past week, a well-established Boston charter announced that it was closing one campus and consolidating its other two because of declining enrollments. Four of Bill Gates’ charter schools in Washington State have closed due to low enrollments. The only effort to verify the claim of “waiting lists” was carried out by Isaiah Thompson, a public radio reporter in Boston; his review showed that the list contained many duplications, even triplications, since many students applied to more than one school, and the same lists held the names of students who had already enrolled in a charter school or a public school.

Perhaps the Times will now interview Dr./Rev. Anika Whitfield in Little Rock to learn about the struggles of Grassroots Arkansas to block the Walton campaign to destroy their public schools. Perhaps its reporters will interview Jitu Brown to hear from a genuine civil rights leader who is not funded by the Waltons or the Bradley Foundation or Betsy DeVos. Perhaps they will dig into the data in Ohio, where 2/3 of the state’s charter schools were rated either D or F by the state in 2018, and where the state’s biggest cyber charter went into bankruptcy earlier this year after draining away over $1 billion from public schools’ coffers. Perhaps they will cover the news from New Orleans, the only all-charter district in the nation, where the state just posted its school scores and reported that 49% of the charters in New Orleans are rated either D or F. Perhaps they will cover the numerous real estate scandals that have enabled unscrupulous charter operators to fleece taxpayers.

Fairness requires that the New York Times take a closer look at this issue, not by interviewing advocates for the charter industry but by trying to understand why so many Democrats, especially progressives, have abandoned the charter crusade. Why, as the Times asked in July, have charter schools lost their luster?  (I asked the same question last April.) [Editor’s note: I added these two links to refer to use of the term “lost their luster.”] Why have the number of new charters plummeted nationally despite the expenditure of $440 million a year by the federal government and even more by foundations like Gates, Broad, DeVos, Bloomberg, Koch, and Walton. Maybe it was disappointment in their lackluster, often very poor, academic performance. Or maybe it was the almost daily revelations of waste, fraud, and abuse that occurs when public money is handed to entrepreneurs without any accountability of oversight.

The question that must be answered is whether it is just and sensible to create two publicly funded school systems, instead of appropriately funding the public schools that enroll 47 million students, almost 90% of all students. It serves the interests of billionaires to keep people fighting about governance and structure, but it serves the interest of our society to invest in great public schools for everyone.

 

ON TAP Today from the American Prospect

NOVEMBER 27, 2019

Kuttner on TAP

The Times: In the Tank on Charter Schools. The Times ran an overwrought and overwritten front-page story Wednesday under the breathless headline, “Minority Voters Feel Betrayed Over Schools.” Betrayed? The headline on the jump page where the story continues is even more exaggerated: “Minority Voters Chafe as Democrats’ Charter School Support Wanes.”

The piece reads as if it were dictated by the charter school lobby. Read the story very carefully, if you bother to read to the end, and you will learn that some black and Hispanic voters see charters as a good alternative to public schools, while others are concerned that charters, which serve only a fraction of minority kids, drain resources from the larger number of kids in public schools, as the Prospecthas documented.

And if you read all the way to paragraph 38 (!), you will learn that according to a poll by Education Next, a journal that supports charters, black opinion on charter schools is in fact evenly divided, 47 percent supportive to 47 percent opposed. But that kind of nuance doesn’t get your story on the front page, while quoting fervent charter school activists and making unsupported generalizations does.

Other 2017 polling by Peter Hart Associates showed that large majorities of voters, black and white, oppose shifting funds from public schools to charters. Black parents were opposed, 64 to 36. Hart’s Guy Molyneux says there’s no evidence that these views have changed.

Does the Times have fact-checkers? Editors? Do they hold writers accountable?

Back to school!

Robert Kuttner’s new book is The Stakes: 2020 and the Survival of American Democracy.

Here is an excellent idea from the California Democratic Party: Charter schools should be governed by elected boards, just like real public schools.

California is a bellwether for the nation. This strong stance shows that teachers are reclaiming their profession from billionaires and hedge fund managers.

Edsource reports:

Taking aim at the majority of charter schools in the state, the California Democratic Party has included language in its platform declaring that these schools should be overseen by publicly elected boards, in contrast to the self-appointed boards that run most of them.

The new language, adopted at the state party’s annual convention in Long Beach over the weekend, was promoted by the 120,000-member California Federation of Teachers and strengthens an already strongly worded section of the California Democratic Party’s platform on charter schools.

It is especially significant because it comes from a state with by far the largest number of charter schools in the nation, enrolling just over 10 percent of all the state’s public school students. It also underscored the ongoing divisions within the party over charter schools, which have become about one of the most contentious issues on the nation’s education reform agenda.

“We need to keep certain services public, and education is one of them,” said California Federation of Teachers President Jeff Freitas.

The party platform includes this new language:

CALIFORNIA DEMOCRATIC PARTY PLATFORM

Urges “support for those charter schools that are managed by public and elected boards, not for profit, transparent in governance, have equitable admissions, adopt fair labor practices and respect labor neutrality, and supplement rather than supplant existing public education program.” — Adopted by California Democratic Party, November 2019

 

 

Tonight, the United Teachers of Los Angeles endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination for president.

LOS ANGELES — United Teachers Los Angeles, the second-largest teachers’ local in the country, is proud to endorse Senator Bernie Sanders for US President in the 2020 Primary Election, making UTLA the first teachers’ union in the country to endorse a presidential candidate.

Tonight, the UTLA House of Representatives – the elected leadership body of the 34,000-member union — voted 80% in favor of endorsing Sen. Sanders, capping the most comprehensive member engagement process that UTLA has ever conducted for a political candidate.

vote

Thursday’s House vote followed a six-week discussion at school sites. Following that member engagement, on Wednesday at nine regional meetings, more than 500 elected site representatives voted 72.5% yes to the presidential endorsement of Sen. Bernie Sanders. Wednesday’s vote was opened up to allow any member who attended to vote alongside elected chapter leaders.

UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl said: “Why now, and why Bernie? Because we want him to win in the primary election and because we need an unapologetic, longstanding ally of progressive policies to make public education a priority in the White House. Sanders is the first viable major candidate in 25 years in the Democratic Party to stand up against privatization, the charter billionaires, and high-stakes testing and to stand up for a massive redistribution of wealth to schools and social services. Critically, like UTLA, Sen. Sanders believes in building a national movement for real, lasting change.”

Bernie Endorse

Teachers are the number one profession among his donors for a reason: Sanders has the most comprehensive, progressive plan for public education among the candidates. His platform calls for a salary floor for public school teachers, tripling Title I federal education funding, boosting funding for special education (IDEA), and placing a moratorium on charter school growth. For the last several decades the unregulated growth of corporate charter schools has siphoned money from public schools, with little protection against fraud and little attention paid to equity or quality when it comes to educating students.

In addition to education issues, Sanders’ platform aligns with our values on a range of issues, including rebuilding the US labor movement and winning Medicare for All.

Bernie spoke at UTLA’s Leadership Conference in July, and he brought down the house with his defiant message about leading a movement for fundamental political and social change, including a strong, fully funded public education system. Sen. Sanders also signed a pledge to support Schools and Communities First and Our New Deal for Public Schools. He was the first major US politician to publicly support our 2019 strike, and he pushed for donations to our strike fund, leading to a cascade of influential support and an increase in the fund of more than $100,000.

BSUTLA

LA educators are standing behind a candidate who has the electability to beat Trump. Sanders is leading in Democratic fundraising, is strong in swing states and among independent voters, beats Trump in head-to-head polls, and has major support in demographics that will vote heavily in 2020, including Latinx voters, Black women, and millennials. As the electorate becomes more diverse, defeating Trump will require a candidate who can motivate a diverse coalition of voters.

Sanders’ platform is not just a corrective to the destructive presidency of Donald Trump but also to failed policies of the past few decades that have starved public schools and left behind working-class and middle-class families while giving massive tax breaks to corporations and billionaires. Long-standing Democratic Party leaders have been a part of these problems.

“We must take the most anti-Trump stance that we can take,” said UTLA Vice President Gloria Martinez. “That includes endorsing Sen. Sanders. We see in Bernie the same fighting spirit that drove 60,000 people — teachers, students and parents — to the streets of LA in January during UTLA’s strike to invest in our students.”

The following is a timeline of UTLA’s endorsement.

  • Sept. 11 – UTLA Board of Directors votes 35-1 to begin exploring an endorsement process for Sen. Bernie Sanders.
  • Sept. 18 – UTLA House of Representatives votes 135-46 to confirm the process to explore endorsing Sanders.
  • Oct. 2 – School site leaders discuss and review endorsement materials.
  • Oct. 2-Nov. 12 — School site leaders engage members on consideration of a UTLA endorsement of Sen. Bernie Sanders.
  • Nov. 13— Membership advisory up or down vote at 9 regional area meetings. 72.5% of voters, representing more than 500 LAUSD schools, say yes to endorsing Sanders.
  • Nov. 14 — House of Representatives votes 80% to endorse Sen. Bernie Sanders.

###

In a major setback for Republicans in Virginia, Democrats swept control of both houses of the state legislature!

Trump has no shirttails.

This election and the election in Kentucky should send a message to the a Republican majority in the Senate. Will Democrats sweep both houses of Congress next year as Mitch McConnell and every other Republican Senator stick by Trump to the bitter end?

 

Carol Burris notes that charter-friendly Democrats have been put in a jam since Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have announced their intention to eliminate federal funding for charter schools, which is currently $440 million a year and used by Betsy DeVos primarily to expand big corporate chains.

She writes:

Since Elizabeth Warren joined Bernie Sanders in calling for an end to the U.S. Department of Education’s Charter Schools Program (CSP), the charter school establishment has been frantically trying through editorials, postings and back channels to get Warren to change her mind.

One of the latest and more subtle attempts has been made by the Center for American Progress (CAP), that serves as the “think tank” for the least progressive arm of the Democratic Party, at least when it comes to education policy.

 Readers may remember CAP as the cheerleaders for the Common Core during the Obama years. It embraced all of the failed policies of Race to the Top, including evaluating teachers by test scores and the collection of big data on student performance to drive “data driven” reform.

 In a recent posting, no doubt in response to Warren’s call to shut down CSP, they issued a call for CSP “modernization” that you can find here.

 Since it began in 1995, the CSP has spent $4.1 billion on starting and expanding charter schools in nearly every state. Rather than addressing the big problems of the program—the funding of unauthorized charters that never open, the program’s history of sending hundreds of millions to charter schools that open and shut down, and the flow of money that goes to for-profit operators via “non-profit” schools, it tinkers around the edges with rules and suggestions for even more programs.

 One suggested “reform” calls for communities to analyze the need for more schools, presumably charter schools, via the grants.  That call does not follow up with the recommendation that CSP funds be given only to applicants in communities that find need. All CAP is calling for, therefore, is one more CSP program that would do nothing to address the problem of charter school saturation, which is overwhelming public school systems by draining the insufficient resources they have.

 They also call for funding to develop “unified enrollment systems.” Such systems, favored by the proponents of portfolio districts, are designed to expand the footprint of charter schools,while being disguised as an equity reform. One of the favored private vendors for unified enrollment is a company called SchoolMint. SchoolMint is presently being used in Camden, New Jersey, San Antonio, Texas, Denver, Colorado and other choice-driven districts.

 SchoolMint makes it mission clear when it comes to charter schools— “your growth is our game plan.” In this blog on the company’s website it shows how school districts can steer low-income families to certain schools, because after all, the program knows best especially when it comes to low-income families. SchoolMint can easily be used to steer parents away from what would be their first choice, their local public schoolto a charter school. Public school advocates on the ground in Camden have told NPE that is exactly what is happening.

 Another recommendation of CAP is for funding to create additional charter networks. However, cities are already overwhelmed by the giant CMOs like IDEA, KIPP, Great Hearts and the Gulen-affiliated CMOs that actively recruit and pull the most motivated students from the public schools, as well as fromthe independent charters that are attempting to realize the charter ideal of teacher and parent led schools formed for innovation.

 In short, the CAP call for reform ignores the serious issues that we brought to light in our NPE report, Asleep at the Wheel.  I believe it is designed to give candidates an alternative to the promises of Sanders and Warren to shut down the federal charter funding supplied by the CSP.

 Like the silly stand of “I’m against for-profit charters”, even though there are only a handful of for-profit charter schools in the nation, the CAP “reforms” are just one more attempt by neo-liberals to give Democratic candidates the appearance of actively supporting charter reform, while still supporting the status quo.

 CAP’s latest report serves as a reminder that the Democrats who share the DeVos agenda have not disappeared, even though none of the Democratic candidates is willing to admit in public that they do.

 

Hedge fund managers decided in 2005 that the best way to advance the charter school idea was to create a faux organization called Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), then to funnel campaign cash to Democratic candidates who promised to support charter schools. This worked for a time. Senator Barack Obama spoke at the inaugural meeting of DFER at a penthouse in Manhattan filled with Wall Street types. When Obama was elected, DFER recommended Arne Duncan to be Secretary of Education, and Obama picked him over the highly qualified Linda Darling-Hammond, who had been his spokesperson during the campaign.

But some Democrats realized that DFER was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The Democratic Party of California passed a resolution demanding that DFER drop the D because it was a front for corporate interests. The Democratic party of Colorado also passed a resolution denouncing DFER.

In 2016, DFER supported a referendum in Massachusetts to expand the number of charter schools, in company with the Waltons and big Republican donors. The charter campaign went down to a crashing defeat, after charters were denounced by the state Democratic Party and almost every school district committee in the state. The only demographic that supported the expansion of charters was members of the Republican Party.

Today, the loudest champion of charter schools is Betsy DeVos. The biggest allies of the charter movement are Republican governors and legislatures.

Sensing the change in the air, recognizing that charter schools now belong to ALEC and DeVos, almost every  Democratic candidate for President has steered clear of charter schools. Bernie Sanders endorsed the NAACP call for a moratorium on new charters.

But wait! DFER has commissioned a poll to demonstrate that Democrats actually favor charters!

Peter Greene says the poll is baloney. He explains it here. His advice: Ignore it.

Nancy Flanagan is a retired teacher in Michigan with long experience in the classroom and one of our best education bloggers.

In this post, she wonders why the Democratic candidates are mostly mum about charters. At the last Democratic debate, when the question of charters was raised, Andrew Yang was the only one who openly expressed support for charters. The good news is that Andrew Yang will not be the eventual candidate. Even Cory Booker avoided the subject. Bernie Sanders, whose education policy is sharply critical of charters, did not take the opportunity to express his views. He should have.

Flanagan writes:

I believe charter schools have done untold damage to public education, and I’ve had twenty years to observe the public money/private management ideology establish itself in Michigan. First, a scattering of alternative-idea boutique schools, another ‘choice’ for picky parents. Then they go after the low-hanging fruit, the schools in deep poverty—and then the healthier districts.  There is now agreement with an idea once unthinkable in America: corporations have a “right” to advertise and sell education, using our tax dollarsSo—no, I cannot be agnostic. In the end, I’d like to see charter schools go away, one at a time, forever, because mountains of evidence have proven that they’re ripe for fraud and malpractice, and because there are far better public-school options, in every city and neighborhood. I think that’s preferable to trying to extinguish or ban charter schools outright—although ending all federal financial support for charters is Step One. That will necessitate a new Secretary of Education. The rest will mean changing hearts and minds—a long, slow process.

She adds:

Education is my issue, but charters are a mere slice of a bigger pie. It was gratifying to simply hear candidates talk about education on the stage. Here’s what I would like to hear from a candidate:

Let’s invest more in fully public education—the kind that’s community-based and has elected oversight. Let’s acknowledge the places where it has crumbled and rebuild them, instead of abandoning them. Let’s work toward more economically and ethnically diverse schools, making them places where building an informed citizenry and developing individual talents—not test scores—are our highest goals.

Right on, Nancy!

Let’s keep pushing the candidates and demand them to speak out against privatization.

Real Democrats do not outsource public money to privately managed schools and religious schools.

 

Cory Booker was recently interviewed by the Washington Post, and he was asked about his past support for vouchers and his friendship with Betsy DeVos. 

He insisted that he turned against vouchers in 2006, and he barely remembered any connection to DeVos. When someone asked if he had flown to Michigan in 2000 at the request of Dick and Betsy DeVos to support their voucher referendum, he at first denied it, then when shown a tape, he said he didn’t remember it.

He opposed DeVos’ nomination to be Secretary of Education in 2017.

DeVos’s allies are stunned by what they call his turnabout. They view Booker’s effort to distance himself from her and her agenda as a betrayal. 

Now that it is politically inconvenient, he has distanced himself from the issue and those who helped launch his political career,” said William E. Oberndorf, who was chairman of the American Education Reform Council when DeVos and Booker were on the board. “Cory once told me that his father used to say to him, ‘Never forget the girl who brought you to the dance.’ I can only conclude that Cory not only forgot one of the girls who brought him to the dance, he missed his . . . moment to stand up for an issue he always said he believed in.” 

Booker’s advocacy for vouchers won him the financial support of conservative Republicans who were delighted to see a black Democratic Mayor supporting their cause.

Booker’s political career took off as a parade of wealthy philanthropists, hedge fund managers and others who supported DeVos’s “school choice” viewpoint poured money into his campaigns and pet projects. 

In 2000, with their voucher referendum on the ballot, the DeVos family invited Booker to debate the legislative director of the ACLU. She kept a tape of the debate and shared it with the Post. The voucher proposal went down to a crushing defeat by 3-1.

In September 2000, Booker delivered a blistering pro-voucher speech to the Manhattan Institute, a conservative policy group. 

Booker’s 2006 race for mayor of Newark won the support of many conservative Republicans. He proposed tuition tax credits (a form of voucher) and went all-in for charters.

When he ran for the Senate in 2014 in a special election, he was helped by Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, who held a fundraiser for him.

As recently as May 2016, Booker appeared again before the group that DeVos chaired, the American Federation for Children. After DeVos delivered a speech defending herself against attacks from Democrats, Oberndorf warmly introduced Booker, praising his commitment to school choice.

Booker spoke proudly about the growing number of students in Newark’s charter schools, saying, “This mission of this organization is the mission of our nation. . . . I have been involved with this organization for 10 years and I have seen the sacred honor of those here.” 

As Booker finished his speech, the audience gave him a standing ovation. To DeVos and her allies, it seemed that Booker was still firmly in the fold, according to Oberndorf. 

But a year later, he opposed DeVos’ nomination.

Booker’s vote shattered his career-long alliance with DeVos and stunned her supporters. 

“Cory gained a great deal of political support thanks to his association with Betsy and other supporters,” said Mitchell, the president of the American Education Reform Council when Booker and DeVos were board members. “His abandonment of school choice and of Betsy makes it clear that his professed commitment to the issue and his friendship with her were fueled by political ambition, not principle.” 

Betsy helped to fund his political career. But it was no longer convenient to be her friend.