Cory Booker Hits Senate Just in Time to Vote for Private School Vouchers

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker began his political career as an advocate of publicly funded vouchers for private schools – a position that put him at the far right of the political spectrum. Today, private school vouchers remain a largely Republican domain, but Booker will find it hard to avoid supporting a vouchers bill sponsored by a senator from Tennessee.

Cory Booker Hits Senate Just in Time to Vote for Private School Vouchers

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

“Booker has never turned his back on the private school hucksters that launched his political career.”

Cory Booker, the new U.S. Senator from New Jersey and the darling of corporate executives, everywhere, may have an early chance to show Capitol Hill his true colors on vouchers for private schools. Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, of Tennessee, has introduced a bill to transfer about 41 percent of federal public school moneys to the states, which could then turn the funds into vouchers. Parents would be allowed to use the vouchers to pay for private schools, or charter schools, or a public school outside their district. It is a formula designed to hasten the already rapid dissolution of public education in America.

Cory Booker began his public career as an advocate of private school vouchers. Along with two prominent Republican soul mates, Booker founded a local New Jersey outfit called Educational Excellence for Everyone. That’s how he first became embedded in the universe of rightwing foundations and think tanks whose pet project at the turn of the 21st century was private school vouchers. They bankrolled Booker’s rise to mayor of Newark and used their media machine to make him a nationally known politician while still in his early 30s. If Booker had not narrowly lost his first bid for mayor, in 2002, he – not Barack Obama – might have had the inside track on becoming the first Black President. As it turned out, both Booker and Obama represent the most corporate elements of the Democratic Party – and the most hostile to public education.

Once he had secured a national spotlight, Booker founded another group, called Democrats for Education Reform. By that time, the term “reform” had become a code word for charter schools and busting the teachers unions. Democrats for Education Reform morphed into a political action committee fueled by contributions from Wall Street fat cats who wanted to get a piece of the school privatization action. As always, Cory Booker was their man.

“By 2016, thanks to both Booker and Christie, charter schools will account for more than a third of Newark’s student enrollment.”

Booker and Republican New Jersey governor Chris Christie worked hand-in-hand as preachers of the school charter gospel. Both took credit for Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million donation to Newark schools, and, both made sure that charter schools got more than their fair share of the money. By 2016, thanks to both Booker and Christie, charter schools will account for more than a third of Newark’s student enrollment.

Wall Street is betting on charter schools, because that’s where the most profits can be made. How can a speculator lose, when the public foots the bill while the education corporations reap the rewards? That’s why President Obama, the consummate corporate politician, has acted as chief national booster and bully for charter schools. However, most Democrats draw the line at private school vouchers. Cory Booker would very much like to appear to be a mainstream Democrat – the kind that can win presidential primaries or be tapped as vice presidential running mate. But Booker has never turned his back on the private school hucksters that launched his political career. He will have little choice but to vote in favor of Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander’s school vouchers bill, thus putting himself at odds with most of the Democratic Caucus in the Senate. Booker is likely to start his tenure as Senator in the same place he began his political career – in bed with the most reactionary rich white people in America.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected].

 
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