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Est. April 5, 2002
April 25, 2019 - Issue 786

Milwaukee’s School Choice
Links to Sen. Cory Booker

"The wave of teacher activism sweeping the nation,
in the wake of assaults on teachers and public education
and Booker’s participation in them should send him packing
in the presidential primaries sooner rather than later. 
Educators need to remind Booker of who he actually is—a
front for the Cartel lobby for the privatization of K-12
public education.  It can start in Milwaukee."

It is ironic that Sen. Cory Booker visited Milwaukee a few weeks after the indictment of Dr. Michael Bonds, former Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) Board President and UW-Milwaukee faculty member. Both have been intimately connected to the city’s school choice programs. Bonds allegedly stuck his hand in the till for personal enrichment. Booker, on the other hand, used the Milwaukee choice initiative as an early jumpstart to his political career under the mentorship of Dr. Howard Fuller, the nation’s foremost school choice advocate for both Democratic and Republican national, state, and local administrations.

Speaking at “Coffee Makes You Black,” on North Teutonia Avenue, Booker addressed gun violence prevention and criminal justice reform which are also supported by his primary backers, members of the Cartel of corporate reformers of public education. He recounted the death of a young man (T-Bone) in Newark where he was Mayor, a longstanding trope in his speeches about urban challenges. (However, no one has ever been able to document that the specific incident even occurred.) Booker was careful to avoid any mention of school choice and gave only the most general references to public education.

He was able to avoid any questions about his past championing of voucher and charter schools and his demonization of teachers. Booker is doing the electric slide toward teachers and African Americans as he understands that they were key groups in electing Gov. Tony Evers (D) last November. They will also determine the winner of Wisconsin’s 2020 Democratic Primary and, perhaps, the presidential election. However, Booker’s past attacks on K-12 education are slowly beginning to surface which explain, in part, his low standing in national polls--between 2 and 4 percent.

The late Dr. Michael Joyce, founding CEO of the Bradley Foundation, used Booker as a poster child for school choice nationally during the late 1990s and the early 2000s. Joyce also surrounded him with Mikel Holt, then editor of Wisconsin’s largest African American newspaper, and the late Wisconsin State Representative Annette Polly Williams who, along with Fuller, were also among the Bradley Foundation’s continuing African American grantees. They traveled the country and visited Booker in New Jersey spreading the school choice message.

In 2012, he gave a keynote address to the Third Annual School Choice Summit of the American Federation of Children (AFC) in Jersey City, New Jersey (which the author attended as an observer and researcher). There Booker was joined by his tutor, Dr. Fuller, also a featured speaker, Wisconsin State Senator Lena Taylor, and then State Representative Beth Coggs-Jones, who had received substantial contributions from the Cartel and other members of the School choice lobby. These Milwaukeeans were lionized as being from the school choice mecca and for supposedly saving the educational lives of African American children.

Since that time, corruption in voucher and charter school programs has spread from Milwaukee to numerous other states. But despite his best efforts, Booker has been unable to establish vouchers in New Jersey, primarily because the per student payouts for charter schools is so much higher. Nonetheless, like Milwaukee, New Jersey’s graft and corruption has been traced to fly-by-night entrepreneurs, local clergy, and hustlers who have scammed more than $4 billon from state coffers. While this theft has been going on, these same communities have allowed lead in the water, in low-income, disproportionately minority communities, to increase exponentially and to poison the water in schools serving millions of children of color in decaying urban cities across the nation.

While Flint and Milwaukee continue to face lead water challenges on a daily basis, Booker was able to escape the Newark lead water crisis, which occurred on his watch, in 2013 when he was elected to the U.S. Senate. Yet, he tried to sell the Newark watershed prior to his departure that would have covered his tracks. Booker’s successor, Mayor Ras Baraka, is currently grappling with this catastrophe.

Milwaukee remains at the forefront of school choice as it is beginning to crumble under its own weight of exploitation, sleaze, and bribery that is coming to light after being covered up by Cartel acolytes locally and nationally. Essential to this exposure will be teachers and other supporters of public education whose voices and votes are giving rise to a renaissance in K-12 public education. After losing more than 50,000 students to voucher, partnership, and charter schools since 1990, Milwaukee’s leadership is moving toward embracing public education again despite the opposition of majority and minority actors plotting to disassemble it.

There will be those who succumb to the sirens of school choice as did former MPS Board member Wendell Harris, who was defeated in a landslide by his opponent in the April 2019 election. A long-term NAACP leader, he had previously and vigorously opposed Howard Fuller over the expansion of voucher and charter schools. But as the old saying goes, “money talks and bull**** walks,” unless you are really committed to something.

The wave of teacher activism sweeping the nation, in the wake of assaults on teachers and public education and Booker’s participation in them should send him packing in the presidential primaries sooner rather than later. Educators need to remind Booker of who he actually is—a front for the Cartel lobby for the privatization of K-12 public education. It can start in Milwaukee.

links to all 20 parts of the opening series Columnist, Dr. Walter C. Farrell, Jr., PhD, MSPH, is a Fellow of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado-Boulder and has written widely on vouchers, charter schools, and public school privatization. He has served as Professor of Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and as Professor of Educational Policy and Community Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Contact Dr. Farrell. 




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