With the announcement of Newark, New Jersey Mayor, Cory Booker, as the keynote speaker at the Dems Convention on June lst, the controversy continues.
First off, I love Cory Booker. He knows his city, he lives with regular folks and is very down-to-earth. He also, apparently, will be leaping tall buildings with a single bound as he already has gone into a burning building and saved a woman's life. He is a bigger-than-life person.
But he is also a huge charter school supporter. Of course, he is coming from a very different kind of place than most urban cities:
During his tenure, Newark experienced its first homicide-free month in more than 40 years and has been recognized for leading the nation among large cities in reductions of shootings and murders.
(this from the Washington State Dems site).
Naturally, with those kinds of stats, I can imagine the challenge for schools in Newark.
But Newark is not all of New Jersey and, as I have reported before, the rest of New Jersey (especially the prosperous and high-performing suburbs) are not so excited about charters in their districts. I'm guessing most of the suburbanites think they are good for urban kids but not so much for suburban kids (kind of like some of those Issaquah charter proponents). There's definitely some irony in there.
He is a member of the DFER Board of Advisors (along with Steve Barr of Green Dot charter schools, 4 investment bankers and Tom Vander Ark, education gadfly).
Last year he gave a thunderbolt-throwing speech before the National Charter Schools Conference and said:
“This room is full of modern-day freedom fighters who refuse to accept what is and demand every day what we know can be.”
(Mayor Booker do remember that if you want to use that kind of language, that in other contexts one man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist. Words have meaning.)
He also said:
“This is not our children’s fault. It is our fault,” Mayor Booker said. “We must stop playing the blame game where we blame the parents or the teachers or the politicians or the community. This is what the charter movement is about. Democracy is not a spectator sport where you stand on the sidelines and give colorful commentary.”
“We are part of a charter school community under attack in every single state,’ Booker told the 4,000 attendees. “We are part of a charter school community that is trying to show the nation that our children should be our focus, that we not have vilification of children in charter schools.”
But Booker cautioned the advocates, “If we become an establishment that defends charter schools just because they are a charter school, then we have failed as a movement. Our charter schools must be schools of accountability. Our charter schools must be schools of excellence.”
Under attack? Because states are now growing ever more aware that they are investing in schools that are performing at the same level as the ones that have existed all along (or worse)? And, that yes, many are protecting their bottom line rather than the bottom line of the question of if academic achievement for every child in their school is their goal?
I do have to wonder at his words about blaming parents, teachers or children. For parents and children, it is very much about poverty and the longer we act like that doesn't matter, the less will get done no matter which direction you choose. As for teachers, well, I can only say that everyone has gotten in on that stoning so where has he been?
But yes, we do get to point a finger at politicians and community. Why? Because we, the people, elected those who control the money. We need to have accountability for that money and for the laws that we create.
Don't say yes to fixes without accountability. If it isn't enforced, then accountability is just a bunch of words on a piece of paper.