STATE — While pretending to debate whether the chicken or egg came first, a bipartisan conspiracy is being advanced by corporations and billionaires who are planning to eat your lunch, according to a new article entitled “Who will own our schools?” that is published exclusively on the website of New Jersey’s oldest weekly newspaper.
Four prominent New Jersey educators say that right-wing interest groups cloaked as both Democrats — such as Cory Booker – and Republicans — such as Gov. Chris Christie – are dominating the education reform debate and both ‘sides’ share bipartisan plans to impose policies harmful to students, working families, public schools and democracy itself.
The authors say that education can help people achieve higher wages but society first needs to create good jobs in order to address the problem of poverty, and they warn there is an deliberate effort to convert public schools for the benefit of corporations and billionaires, cloaked as an effort to help children and taxpayers.
“Schools are the cornerstone of a democratic society, but in a business what the boss says, goes,” according to the column authored by Lois Weiner, Brian Ford, Awo Okaikor Aryee-Price and Branden Rippey.
“Although we hear this mantra all the time from politicians, education is not the best way to address poverty,” the authors state. “To deal with poverty we need to create good jobs. Most jobs being created in our country require about an 8th grade education and are in the poorly-paying service sector.”
“Good teachers ‘count,’ of course, just as good doctors do,” they say, suggesting that quality education is largely dependent on economics. “Most people would agree that even wonderful doctors can’t do much for patients who must choose between spending money on medications or buying food.”
The authors even argue that while teacher unions have become a “whipping boy” in the debate, “both the NJEA and NJAFT have played the game rather than fighting for what’s right. They capitulated on every issue on which they should have mobilized…”
Brian Ford teaches history in Montclair and is co-founder of NJTAG, New Jersey Teacher Activist Group and a doctoral student at Montclair State University.
Another NJTAG member, Awo Okaikor Aryee-Price, is a teacher with 12 years experience who is also an organizer with IDEA, the Institute of Democratic Education in America.
Branden Rippey teaches history at Science Park High School and is vice chair of the Newark Education Workers Caucus.
The column highlights wide major concern about Booker’s reputation as a closet Republican, as he leads in polling over three accomplished Democratic candidates in the special Aug. 13 primary election to replace U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg.
As an example of school privatization schemers posing as an “education reform” movement, Booker was a key speaker at the May 4, 2012 conference of the American Federation for Children, a private group that is funded by Michigan Republican Betsy DeVos, the wife of Dick DeVos — an heir to the Amway fortune — and the sister of Erik Prince, the war profiteer who founded Blackwater - the private mercenary corporation now known as Academi.
Booker also accepted at least one $10,000 campaign contribution from arch-conservative Foster Friess, another school privatization advocate who financed a super PAC supporting the 2012 presidential campaign of radical Republican Rick Santorum.
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