The unforgivable lies in NJEA’s endorsement of Cory Booker

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BLOGCHRISTIEBOOKERMy favorite definition of education is a century old, from Oxford don John Alexander Smith: “Nothing that you will learn in the course of your studies will be of the slightest possible use to you in after life, save only this, that if you work hard and intelligently you should be able to detect when a man is talking rot, and that, in my view, is the main, if not the sole, purpose of education.” By that standard, the endorsement of Cory Booker by the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) should be used in all standardized  tests throughout  New Jersey, perhaps the nation. It is pure, unadulterated rot and an insult to every thinking teacher in the state.

In the latest NJEA Review, the organization that calls itself a union and supporter of public education not only endorses this pro-voucher, pro-charter, pro-Cami Anderson, pro-Chris Christie candidate of Wall Street, it also provides a forum for him to spread lies and half-truths. How, when the children and parents of Newark are suffering from the agony that is “One Newark,” when the city’s teacher union is under attack and about to be broken, how when Booker already has said he wanted to see Newark turned into the charter capital of New Jersey—how could the NJEA publish this rot?

How could it be so indifferent to what is happening, not just in Newark, but in Camden as well where the NJEA-endorsed Urban Hope Act—a cause embraced by Booker– is about to destroy public education?

Such cynicism is absolutely breathtaking. Unforgivable.

A little history: There are those—and I and Sharpe James are among them–who believe Cory Booker was brought to Newark, despite his absolute lack of connection to the city, to be the tool of Ray Chambers and the Prudential crowd. He did come to the city spouting the charms of vouchers and charters.

“This young man comes to see me and all he wants to talk about is vouchers—I wasn’t sure what he was taking about,” James told me in an interview a while ago. It was the first time he ever met Booker.

I went on a voucher pilgrimage to Milwaukee that Booker helped organize, a trip sponsored by the right-wing organization Education Excellence for Everyone (EEE). He brought us to see evangelical schools operated with public funds where students greeted each of us individually with “Jesus loves you.” He brought us to see Catholic schools kept alive with public money. And it was then that he began his nonsensical mantra—“Public school choice is the civil rights issue of our time.”

To be honest, I was in favor of school choice until that trip. When I saw what it really looked like in operation, I was repelled. It meant the end of public education as we know it: And that is precisely what Cory Booker wants—and, if he succeeds, the NJEA will have helped him.

Instead of reading the garbage spewed by the NJEA, read The New Yorker article “Schooled,” by Dale Russakoff who, unlike NJEA leaders, actually spends time in the city. Read this:

“Early in the summer of 2010, Booker presented Christie with a proposal, stamped ‘Confidential Draft,’ titled ‘Newark Public Schools—A Reform Plan’. It called for imposing reform from the top down; a more open political process could be taken captive by unions and machine politicians. ‘Real change has casualties and those who prospered under the pre-existing order will fight loudly and viciously,’ the proposal said. Seeking consensus would undercut real reform. One of the goals was to ‘make Newark the charter school capital of the nation.’ The plan called for an ‘infusion of philanthropic support’ to recruit teachers and principals through national school-reform organizations; build sophisticated data and accountability systems; expand charters; and weaken tenure and seniority protections. Philanthropy, unlike government funding, required no public review of priorities or spending. Christie approved the plan, and Booker began pitching it to major donors.”

How could the NJEA ignore this and print attempts by Booker to hide his support for the privatization of Newark school with comments like this: “I often say that charters—and I want to be clear what I mean by vouchers, a tax credit program—are not the panacea.” He is lying and the NJEA should say so.

Booker has viewed charters and vouchers and privatization generally as the solution to educational problems in Newark and other cities since he emerged out of nowhere to be the Manchurian candidate of rich, white people who don’t live in Newark but want to control it and its people and, most of all, its real estate. He told me so. He’s told others that. He has put it in writing.

In the NJEA endorsement, it allows Booker to say, “Even the most optimistic people who believe in charter growth who talk about Newark, do not talk about as even being the majority of schools.” He is lying.

It will be a majority in just a few years. And Booker wants that. This is what he told charter school supporters in Newark while he was still mayor:

“I’ll be very frank. I want you to expand as fast as you can. But, when schools are failing, I don’t think pouring new wine into old skins is the way. We need to close them and start new ones.”

The NJEA endorsement is a propaganda rug woven carefully and deliberately of self-serving and cynical lies. The people who run the union simply cannot be so stupid or delusional or naïve that they don’t recognize what they are doing.

I understand –but do not agree—that people fear the loss of a Senate seat by Democrats, any Senate seat, might turn the upper house over to the Republicans. The NJEA could have said that. It could have not endorsed anyone, knowing Booker will probably win anyway. It didn’t have  to give such a boost to this enemy of public education.

It is simply unforgivable for this organization that calls itself a union to hand Booker the bullets he needs to administer a coup de grace against public education in cities like New Orleans and Newark.

Unforgivable.

34 comments

  1. Joe

    This is what we are reduced to in this county: choosing between the lesser of two evils or not voting or voting for the Greens. Nader has been right all along, it’s a duopoly and 3rd party candidates don’t stand a chance. In the overwhelming majority of cases, it will be either an R or a D that will win, that’s the grim reality. The GOP is the crazier party and is obscenely horrible on most non educational issues. But when it comes to education, both parties are on board for the destruction of public education. Even the CT teachers’ union endorsed Malloy who is rabidly anti tenure and the teacher union. It’s nuts, it’s Sophie’s Choice all over again.

    • Scott Neuman

      NJ has a chose this year. The candidates from the DRParty.com are fighting corruption in NJ. If you’re tired of the Soprano state, you can make a difference. Your vote in November.
      Scott Neuman for Congress – 4th CD NJ. Democratic-Republican Party of NJ. We’re not the lesser of evils. We’re the better of all decisions.

  2. Becca Field

    I wonder what your blog will read when the NJEA endorses Sweeney for Governor?

    But more directly to your point, the NJEA endorsed Booker last year – where was the member outcry? It is a member driven organization and the process to screen is democratic — we may agree this was an egregious error. But unless the members speak up and demand something different, then the union as a whole must take responsibility.

    • Teacher Mom

      Most members were supporting Buono even when the union and state Dem machine turned their back on her. NJBATS was pro Buono for sure.

      • Teacher Mom

        Oops my bad, she ran for governor without support. Still think she’d make a better senator though.

  3. Rev. Tony Johnson

    Thank you for quoting the text of Booker’s “charter manifesto.” Booker still looks good to people outside New Jersey (most of whom, given the mainstream media, have no way of knowing what’s really happening in our state) and he looks good to New Jersey residents who aren’t paying attention. I cast a write-in vote in the Democratic Primary. What if thousands of us wrote in “Ras Baraka” or “Bob Braun” in the general election?
    Bob, I agree with you that endorsing Booker to keep a Democratic majority in the Senate would have been an honest position for the NJEA to take.

  4. Galton

    Public schools will lose this election, be it with the predictable Booker victory or from a Bell upset.

    Given that, why not vote for Bell to show Norcross and Sweeney that PUBLIC EDUCATION matters?

    A vote for Booker (or DeVicenzo, Sweeney, Ruiz, Oliver) is a vote to destroy PUBLIC EDUCATION.

    Wise up. Vote for more honest enemy if public education. Vote for BELL.

    • booklady

      Bell hasn’t lived in NJ for decades. Which shows that Christie isn’t such a great leader for GOP in his own state, even as he jets to campaign out of state. He’s had “bully pulpit” (apologies to Teddy Roosevelt) for 4+ years but can’t cultivate a better contender. It’s near-impossible to read what Bell espouses on his own website and want him in office.

      • Galton

        Booklady,
        My point, accept it or not, is that PUBLIC EDUCATION in NJ had no party backing. The Democrats are chasing money and believe voters who care for public education will rarely vote in large numbers for a republican. Basically. The political and financial calculations prove it beneficial for the Democrats to chase the money, pursue public education “reform”. This will remain the case until voters give the Democrats, to a lesser extent Republicans, a reason to support PUBLIC EDUCATION.
        The best way to deliver the message is to vote Booker Out of office.

        Disagree as you may, a victory for Booker harms PUBLIC EDUCATION for more than a Senator Bell ever could.

        Of course an interim Senator LONEGAN would have been a great aid for the democrats across the country this November! But,,, people held their noses ONCE AGAIN and followed the party that has abandon them for deeper pockets!

        Had enough? Elect a fool over a sellout!

  5. Truthglow

    I plan on writing-in the name of an honest politician, the name of ‘RICHARD CODEY’. I’m sick to death of voting for the lesser of two evils, and It doesn’t work. ENOUGH ALREADY!

  6. Bill Wolfe

    I didn’t think it was possible, but the NJEA has outdone the NJEF

    (NJ Environmental Federation, who endorsed Christie in 2009 and then ran political cover for him for 3 years).

    Both are unforgivable.

    And NJEF folks gave Booker loads of cover as Mayor too.

  7. booklady

    Do you think that NJEA figured that if they didn’t endorse anyone–which they have every right to do–that it would result in no leverage should Booker be elected?

      • Becca field

        It was Karen Lewis who I heard say (I paraphrase) that if you have a place at the table – but you are the main course – better to set your own table. Having a seat at the table has not served members very well so far. I would suggest using the massive potential power to remake our political landscape. Members would be ready to support that.

        Bob Braun: Yes, I heard her say that. A clever aphorism. But she also urged her followers not to abandon the Democratic Party–and she is running, or will be soon, as a Democrat? The party faithful will vote for Booker to ensure the Democrats do not lose control of the Senate. Frankly, nothing will change until something radical–like a Booker loss–occurs. Until then, the Wall Street Democrats and Democrats for Education Reform will continue to have public education and teacher unions as the main course at the table. If Lonegan had won last year, and he almost did, Pallone would probably be the next Senator from NJ and, while he is not perfect, he is a lot better than the anti-union, anti-public school Cory Booker. Gradually, my mind is changing–where I once thought teacher unions were part of the solution, I am beginning to believe they are part of the problem. Certainly, the NJEA is. It wants so much to be part of the in-crowd it will sell out basic principles all in the name of what it views as pragmatic politics. Lot of that went on in St. Petersburg in 1917 and Berlin in 1933.

    • Truthglow

      I’m sure that was their main reason. It’s the same reason the NASW-NJ gave me for supporting a horrendous Republican Congressional candidate several years ago, & is probably why they also endorsed Booker this year. I called to complain again & they were flabbergasted! Apparently most NJ social workers are without political sophistication.

  8. Amy

    I couldn’t agree more with Bob’s essay and the comments. NJEA could have, and should have not endorsed anyone for this seat. An an active NJEA member I will be communicating my displeasure with this endorsement. The NJEA leadership has full knowledge of Booker’s positions and his history-failure to endorse would have spoken volumes. Enough of the lesser of two evils philosophy.

  9. Blind Noise

    The NJEA will no doubt reap what it sowed in the not-too-distant future, at the expense of its rank and file members, and more to the point, the students.

  10. Milbadamus

    Can’t believe that my union dues were used to pay for a 4 page interview of Cory Booker. I should legitimately demand that $$$ back. I did send the NJEA a tweet about the issue. The only thing I got was a follow by Cory Booker. I guess he didn’t read the tweet and I hope he isn’t waiting for a follow back…..

    • Truthglow

      Milbadamus: I would BLOCK Cory Booker, if I were you! That might send him a proper message, if you don’t want to put it to him in words.

  11. Bill Wolfe

    Talked to some teachers in Bordentown today – all were disgusted by NJEA endorsement and said they had a lively discussion about that just this morning

  12. newark teacher

    Anyone from Newark , works in Newark, or knows anything about Newark should know Cory Booker is a closet Republican. He always has been. Newark was just a stepping stone for him. he did nothing here and will do nothing for the state. NJEA made a huge mistake. they need to take it back or make an announcement for their membership.

    • Truthglow

      The last thing I heard about Booker was that he was collecting “Selfies” of the entire Senate. That’s about as far as his intellectual prowess takes him.

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  15. Mike

    The time of politicians agreeing with teachers 100% of the time is gone. We are NEVER going to find candidates who believe in everything teachers believe in unless they ARE a teacher. Whether we like it or not, ONE of these individuals (Booker or Bell) WILL become senator. NOT choosing is a cop out and not a real choice because one of them will win. We must choose the lesser of two evils. Bell doesn’t believe in collective bargaining…so if he has his way there WOULD BE NO UNION. (For those who think that is a “good” thing…you are uninformed and don’t have a clue of how much work the “union” does for you. I get so tired of people whining of “What is the union doing?” YOU, the people, ARE the union. When you don’t do what you are asked to do (make a phone call, send a letter, vote, attend a rally)…YOU make the union weak and this is why politicians are no longer afraid of our influence.) Bell also supports the idea of For-Profit Charters AND Vouchers for EVERYBODY, where Booker only supports non-profit charters and vouchers in extremely limited numbers & locations. Bell also believes that standards & financing should be 100% locally. He believes that the Federal Government should have nothing to do with education. (How many states would be teaching “Creationism” right now? If everything was local…how many programs would get cut because of the costs? Can you say so long Arts & electives?) The U.S. is competing against countries, like China…which has ONE education standard…so why do people think that it is a good thing to have 50 or more different standards in the U.S.? A final comment is that it is NOT THE UNION that choose candidates. It is a committee of teachers who volunteer their time and review the voting records, questionnaires and interview the candidates. It is these 125 teachers from every county in the state of NJ who are willing to volunteer their time, who decide REGARDLESS OF PARTY, who will be the best person to represent teachers, our students and public education. We are always choosing between the lesser of two evils, because not choosing is just sticking your head in the sand.

    • A Teacher

      Thank you, Mike. These days no politician is going to agree with NJEA’s platform on every single issue.

      Unless a commenter has actually served on a screening committee, he/she has little knowledge of the endorsement process and the many democratic mechanisms that are in place in order to make informed decisions within the guidelines of NJEA Government Relations. I grilled a candidate in a screening this past year for making the mistake of referring to charter schools as public schools. After two attempts at explaining his definition, he conceded that he only calls charters “public” schools because they take public money. I think he got the point that his words need to be representative of his stance.

      Although Booker’s past voting record should be and is taken into account, it is his record as a senator that is reviewed in this endorsement process, not his record as mayor as per the guidelines.

      I believe Booker is figuring out the errors of his ways despite what the uninvolved neigh-sayers are saying. Outside of the endorsement process, NJEA members ripped into him at the annual legislative conference in February for his past practices. I would be interested in knowing just how many of this page’s commenters were there to witness this? (I highly doubt that this blog’s author was there, either.) Booker obviously has been traveling down a path of caution knowing that an angry NJEA membership does not condone privatization by any name.

      I would very much like for Braun to be able to observe an NJEA screening from start to finish. Problem is, he has to be a member in order to do this. Until then, he speaks from a place of his own opinion as do any of those commenting who have no knowledge of the democratic process of NJEA endorsements.

      The Government Relations division of the NJEA is well-aware of DFER and its connection to the reform movement. DFER is being watched very carefully by NJEA.

      Booker needs the NJEA more than the NJEA needs him, although keeping Democrats in the U.S. senate is far more lucrative for education so that the many education-friendly progressive members of that party can continue to work for the greater good. The NJEA has a policy of setting up positive working relationships with those policy-makers who can be allies on some issues. Bell will never be an ally due to his party’s stance on collective bargaining. The other candidates are simply not electable no matter how many staunch, boots-on-the-ground supporters they have. NJEA has strict rules as to how to maintain a voice in this struggle. Electability is a very big part of the endorsement process.

      The bottom line is this seat is not as significant to the NJEA as those seats on the state level. Yes, the Affordable Healthcare Act positively will affect public education since at-risk children will have access to healthcare, but as a federal policy-maker, Booker will do very little to influence the state policies that the NJEA is watching very carefully. Federal policy-makers lack the kind of power that can harm its members. I will say this: The NJEA has very little presence in Newark. Urban Hope was framed very differently at its legislative adoption than how it has been applied in the regulatory department at the state level. I can assure everyone that NJEA is carefully considering its position on Urban Hope.

      This game, unfortunately, is not some Polly-Anna crusade. Politics is not black and white–we have to be realistic, not idealistic.

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