An extremely sad article appeared in the Washington Post yesterday by Michael Kranish detailing the strong relationship Senator Cory Booker once had with Betsy DeVos revolving around their mutual support of private school vouchers and charter schools. They first started working together on education reform beginning in 1998 when Mr. Booker was asked by Ms. DeVos and her husband to speak on a panel in support of a Michigan ballot initiative backing choice. The Senator and Ms. DeVos ending up serving together for years on two boards of directors that promote school vouchers, and, as recently as 2016, Mr. Booker appeared before the American Federation for Children, an organization chaired by Ms. DeVos. The two were friends and allies. According to the Post:
“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.'”
Then in 2017, in an apparent bid to align himself with the views of the Democratic party so that he could increase his chances of becoming the group’s nominee for President, Mr. Booker voted against confirming Ms. DeVos as the United States Secretary of Education. Again, according to the Post:
“In a dramatic 2017 Senate floor speech, Booker opposed DeVos’s nomination to be Secretary of Education, saying he had ‘no confidence’ in her stance on civil rights issues, without mentioning their prior work together on pro-voucher groups.” The address lasted 45 minutes.
Mr. Booker now states that he changed his mind on school vouchers when he became Mayor of Newark, New Jersey in 2006. According to Mr. Kranish the Senator has recently referred to some charter schools as “really offensive” and “republican schemes.”
Coming up on Wednesday in the nation’s capital, there will a D.C. Council hearing on Charles Allen’s bill to increase charter school transparency. Of course, this legislation includes a requirement that charters adhere to the open meeting law and comply with Freedom of Information Act requests. Given the current political environment I have little faith that this act will be voted down, although the impact on charters could be devastating.
So I have a question this morning. If Mr. Allen’s initiative, which has nothing to do with transparency and is actually completely about the efforts of teachers’ unions to end the city’s charter school movement, passes will our city’s charters have the bravery to refuse to comply?
Let’s see whether our schools are really ready to support our children.