Charismatic Newark Mayor Cory Booker told the annual National Charter Schools Conference in Atlanta this morning, “This room is full of modern-day freedom fighters who refuse to accept what is and demand every day what we know can be.”
In fiery rhetoric suitable for a civil rights rally, Booker called for an end to an achievement gap that he described “as wide as the Grand Canyon.” He applauded an effort by charter schools “to transform pitfalls into pools of potential.”
“This is not our children’s fault. It is our fault,” Mayor Booker said. “We must stop playing the blame game where we blame the parents or the teachers or the politicians or the community. This is what the charter movement is about. Democracy is not a spectator sport where you stand on the sidelines and give colorful commentary.”
Charter school advocates “do not let their fear grow bigger than their faith. They do not let their inability to do everything stop their determination to do something,” he said to applause.
“We are part of a charter school community under attack in every single state,’ Booker told the 4,000 attendees. “We are part of a charter school community that is trying to show the nation that our children should be our focus, that we not have vilification of children in charter schools.”
But Booker cautioned the advocates, “If we become an establishment that defends charter schools just because they are a charter school, then we have failed as a movement. Our charter schools must be schools of accountability. Our charter schools must be schools of excellence.”
Booker talked about the 13-year-old shot and killed in Newark over the weekend in an argument that the mayor says was over a girl. He bemoaned the high incidence of homicides among young black men and the school-to-prison pipeline.
“We fought the greatest war on American soil for the liberation of our people yet we imprison more and more of our own in prisons of ignorance every single day.”
–from Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog