Cory Booker

Cory Booker Is Running for President. Must He Run Away from School Choice?

The New Jersey senator was once a big supporter of education reform, but that could be a liability in 2020.


Sean Rayford/TNS/Newscom

When Cory Booker first ran for the U.S. Senate in 2012, he was known as a supporter of school choice. Now Sen. Booker is aiming to be the Democratic Party's presidential nominee. Will he have to run away from education reform to do so?

On Friday, Booker appeared on the front steps of his home in Newark, New Jersey, to take questions from the press. Asked about his long history of support for charter schools, Booker pivoted.

"Our teachers are ridiculously underpaid in America," he said, according to BuzzFeed. "I'm going to run the boldest pro–public school [campaign] there is."

Before joining the Senate, Booker served as mayor of Newark, where he took a keen interest in school choice. He enthusiastically supported vouchers and charter schools, he co-founded a pro-charter group called Excellent Education for Everyone, and he served on the board of Democrats for Education Reform. He was seen as a close ally of the reform-minded Betsy DeVos, and he spoke to her group, American Federation for Children, in as 2016.

"I cannot ever stand up and stand against a parent having options because I benefited from my parents having options," he said.

But when President Donald Trump picked DeVos to be secretary of education, Booker voted against her. He later insisted to CNN's Jake Tapper that he hadn't changed his mind about school choice but voted against DeVos because of changes he believed she would make to the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights.

If Booker is downplaying his enthusiasm for school choice, it's obvious why: To capture the Democratic nomination, he thinks he'll need to shed his image as a third-way Democrat and court the left. Still, it's a depressing turn of events. A dozen years ago, being pro–education reform was a tactic for bringing moderates and independents into the Democratic fold. Now it's a liability.

In 2016, Reason's Matt Welch predicted that the next Democratic president "will be terrible on education policy," citing a debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in which neither expressed even the slightest interest in holding bad teachers accountable. Trump's unexpected victory may have delayed this prophecy, but as the energy on the Democratic side moves further left on all sorts of issues—from Medicare for All to the Green New Deal to basic questions like whether capitalism is better than socialism—Welch's prediction might still come true.

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  1. He’s running away from the truth on most topics, so why not run away from school choice.

    1. While Booker supported charter schools, he participated in the corruption that surrounded them in NJ, and reduced their effectiveness. I wonder if his support was merely a cash grab.

  2. He evolved.

  3. Let’s also talk about the $100 million that Zuckerberg gave to the Newark Schools (and was totally wasted) while Booker was Mayor.

    1. I think there was a movie about it “I’m Gonna Git You Zucka” .

      1. How much for a rib?


    Virginia governor Ralph Northam was photographed in his high school yearbook wearing blackface. But, it wasn’t racist. It is not like the guy standing next to him was wearing a klan uniform or anything.

    Funny how the same journalists in the DC area who just spent a week obsessing over films of years of Covington Catholic high school basketball games somehow missed this and didn’t report it before the election. Just bad luck I guess.

    1. Consistency is for suckers.

      Even without the hypocrisy, I’m kind of puzzled about the extreme offense people seem to take frm blackface. Yeah, the old minstral shows were offensive, racist caricatures. Why does that mean that no one ever gets to put on black face makeup ever again? I could be wrong, but it seems to me that if/when people put on black face today they are mostly making fun of the stereotypes, not of actual black people.
      Maybe I”m naive and people are a lot more racist than I think. But to me racist jokes are funny because racism is so goddamn stupid, not because we’re all horrible racists who think they’re true.

      1. It is just the usual idiocy. And if he were a Republican the media would have ran wild with it and ruined his career. He is a Democrat. So it will never get reported. Journalists are just garbage.

      2. I’m kind of puzzled about the extreme offense people seem to take frm blackface

        Zeb = Mac.

    2. Jesus Christ! Can these Democrats even be more of a caricature of the slave owners that that?

      Black face Democrat next to a guy in a Klan outfit.

    3. Why does the GOP suck at opposition research?

    4. Not a problem, at least the Klan guy ain’t sporting a MAGA cap.

      1. It’s under the pointy mask.

    5. Some 40 years ago I blackened my face with a burnt cork before going to a New Year’s Eve party, just to f*ck with people. A black guy asked me why, and I said that it was just to get some reactions. He was ok with that.

      A bit after midnight my fianc? noticed that every woman there had a black smudge across her face. She thought it was clever.

  5. A socialist lie about political positions?
    Jump on whatever is popular and goes well in focus groups?
    Does anything for donations and power?

    Say it ain’t so.

  6. Known racist sympathizer Robby Soave writing a hit piece on a black man? What a surprise!

    1. Covington revealed Robby as what his aghast ex-friend, Ken “Popehat” White, would call an “alt-right MAGA chud”.

  7. In 2016, Reason’s Matt Welch predicted that the next Democratic president “will be terrible on education policy,” citing a debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in which neither expressed even the slightest interest in holding bad teachers accountable.


  8. He was for it before he was against it.

  9. “I’m going to run the boldest pro?public school [campaign] there is.”

    “As a matter of fact, I’ve already enlisted T-Bone as my Secretary of Education.”

    1. Would you rather he be in Health and Human Services?

      1. Housing and Urban Development, perhaps.

        1. Not tapped to head the DEA?

          1. I know – State Department! I presume that T-Bone has experience in negotiating and in issuing threats.

          2. Don’t say tapped. It’s a bad word associated with firearms.
            Do you want children killed?

  10. You mean a Democrat promised to call Libertarians when he gave them cab fair home but never did? Big if true.

  11. In other news, Vice is laying off 10%. No word on how hard the LGBT desk was hit.

    1. Can LGBT code?

      1. They code in C++ but identify as Python.

        1. Python. Euphemism?

    2. Ha! Literally DECIMATED

      1. +1 accurate use of DECIMATED

        1. Right!!!

          It’s so rare to have the chance to use that word properly.

          The American people should be allowed to vote for congressional decimation in odd numbered years.
          And they have to do it the old school way

        2. What no credit for accurate use of literally?

        3. The Romans would be so proud; except they were white-ish, and can’t be trusted.

    3. thoughts and prays to the Vice

      1. 1 like = 1 clickbait video about an exclusive VIP brothel run by gay black transgender nazi buddhists for ex KGB agents funded with “dark money” from the Vatican

  12. I look forward to the debate between Booker and Trump in the general election.

    He’s some debate footage of Booker playing the straight man for Steve Lonegan in the NJ senate election.

    Great responses at 0:10, 1:00 and 2:00

    1. I suspect Booker won’t make it to the debate stage.

      1. There has never been a Democratic primary with two serious black candidates. I wonder if Booker and Harris split the black vote between them sufficiently to cock block each other.

        1. two serious black candidates

          One, um, of *each*?

        2. Cory Booker is black? Where the hell have I been?

            1. Hey, if Obama got to choose, so does everyone else; the democrats are the party of fairness.

  13. He is running to head the Party of Government Teacher Unions. The answer is, hell yes

  14. “The Talmud asks, ‘Why was he [Moses] chosen?’ ” Boteach recounted. It answers: “Because he once took out the flock to graze, and he came back and there was a little straggler that was missing. And he left the entire flock and went to get the straggler.” Why did this act qualify Moses to lead a nation? “I told Cory,” Boteach said, “the lesson is that he didn’t go back for the straggler?he went back for the entire flock. The flock was incomplete without every constituent member.”

    Our first Jewish president.

  15. Cory couldn’t lead a Boy Scout Troop to an outhouse.

    1. The wondrous thing about being President is that you can delegate for complicated tasks like that.

    2. Would he lead them to the bunkhouse?

      Does he still live with his mother?

    3. Sexist

  16. Since education* is left to the states and to local governments under the COTUS and as such is no business of the POTUS I honestly cannot see why Cory Booker’s views on these things should matter to voters, Unless, of course, Cory Booker somehow believes these are matters which he should be concerned with if he somehow ends up becoming POTUS should be concerned with, in which case I believe he is not someone who should be considered for the office.

    That said, the office of POTUS does have a certain “bully pulpit”.cache. If the POTUS wants to make his opinions known on certain issues that is fine. But those feelings should have no bearing on actual formulation of local and state policy.

    *Actually, education is not mentioned at all in the COTUS. Which leaves one to believe that the Founders though of it a a private matter which was not a concern of government at all.

    1. Trump – putting the bully back in bully pulpit!

    2. Since education* is left to the states and to local governments under the COTUS

      You know what? United States v. Lopez might have made the Dept. of Education unconstitutional. I’m sure that the court doesn’t see it that way, since they’re cherrypicking, duplicitous, disingenuous fuckholes.

      If Congress doesn’t have the power to regulate the carrying of firearms in state-run schools, then how can it regulate state-run schools at all?

      1. General welfare; interstate commerce.
        The usual suspects.

      2. “If Congress doesn’t have the power to regulate the carrying of firearms in state-run schools, then how can it regulate state-run schools at all?”

        The federal government gets into state-run education by an even more usual suspect – by making the states adhere to its regulations if they want federal dollars. See South Dakota v. Dole

        1. Probably late but I’ll give it a try.

          “…making the states adhere to its regulations if they want federal dollars” strikes me as akin to a circular argument.

          Where does the federal government get its power to give money to state schools?

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  18. You expect him to remember every inane rambling from TWO years ago?!
    You fiends.

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  20. Politicians are psychologically stunted. They are stuck in adolescence, a period in which what matters most is acceptance by others. At that stage in our growth, personal integrity is at its low ebb. We care more about approval. This is why politicians lack integrity. Integrity would force them to buck the tide of public acceptance, lose votes and cease being effective politicians. What Booker once thought about school choice is irrelevant, and we shouldn’t imagine that he was torn by his vote on DeVos or that he will re-think his position about school choice, as long as the rabble he’s playing to are against it.

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