Thursday, February 7, 2019

Will Booker’s Track Record on Education Be a Problem for his 2020 Campaign? - NJ Spotlight

Will Booker’s Track Record on Education Be a Problem for his 2020 Campaign? - NJ Spotlight


His vision for improving education has included charter schools and merit pay for teachers — views that are out of fashion for many Democrats

Sen. Cory Booker is running for president — and bringing a lengthy record on education with him.

The former mayor of Newark announced his plans Friday, joining a growing group of Democratic hopefuls. One way he stands out from that crowd: He’s spent much of his career promoting a specific vision for improving education that includes charter schools and merit pay for teachers — views that in recent years have gone out of fashion with many Democrats.

On Friday, Booker vowed to run “the boldest pro-public school teacher campaign there is,” noting he’s previously been endorsed by New Jersey’s teachers unions.

But at a time when teachers across the country are pushing for higher salaries and against charter schools, Booker’s record on education is sure to draw a skeptical eye from unions and public school advocates. And his past work alongside Betsy DeVos may make its way into campaign attack ads from his Democratic opponents, even though he voted against her as U.S. education secretary.

Here’s what you should know about Booker’s education track record, including the dramatic overhaul of schools in Newark he oversaw as mayor.

A lot like Barack Obama’s vision…

Booker, who first ran for Newark mayor in 2002, gained prominence at a time when both Democrats and Republicans were endorsing what became known as “education reform”: a constellation of policies that included school choice, including through privately managed charter schools; accountability for low-performing schools; and ratings for teachers that weighed student test scores.

Booker was among the strongest local evangelists of the movement, which drew criticism from teachers unions and community groups who understood that its goals could be at odds with their own. He even became a leading figure for Democrats for Education Reform, a group that worked to advance the reform agenda among elected officials and successfully influenced President Barack Obama’s education platform.

Booker has championed policies that reward highly rated teachers and remove those with poor ratings.

And he’s been a vocal critic of teachers unions along the way, something that could be problematic as he tries to run a pro-teacher campaign.

“Ten years ago when I talked about school choice, I was literally tarred and feathered,” Booker said in 2008, urging Democratic office holders to “have the political will to stand up against these phenomenally powerful interests.”

“I was literally brought into a broom closet by a union and told I would never win office if I kept talking about charters,” he said.

… and like the Betsy Devos vision too

Like every Senate Democrat (and two Republicans), Booker voted against President Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of education in 2017. But unlike his colleagues, he appeared to have a close connection with Betsy DeVos.

That connection stems from one issue where Booker has also gone further than most Democrats: school vouchers. In 2001, he spoke at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank, praising private school vouchers, something most progressives opposed then and now.

Booker served with DeVos on the board of directors of the Alliance for School Choice (now known as the American Federation for Children Growth Fund). He also spoke at gatherings of the American Federation for Children, an organization DeVos chaired, in 2012 and again in 2016.

“The mission of this organization is aligned with the mission of our nation,” he said in 2016.

The American Federation of Children has CONTINUE READING: Will Booker’s Track Record on Education Be a Problem for his 2020 Campaign? - NJ Spotlight