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“Cathedrals of Learning” Need Our Support, Not Systems, says Newark Mayor Cory Booker

on Saturday, 08 November 2008 00:00

“I’m not wedded to the idea of a school, but rather the idea of cathedrals of learning,” said Mayor Cory Booker today to a diverse crowd in Indianapolis of more than 150 legislators, educators, business owners, and philanthropists. “Instead of focusing on seat time, we need to be focused on achievement.”

Former Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson joined Mayor Booker at the luncheon for a discussion of charter and traditional school issues led by former Indiana State Representative Carolene Mays, publisher of The Indianapolis Recorder, the state’s largest black-owned newspaper.

Booker and Peterson agreed that charter schools should not be viewed with partisan eyes. “We are all in the same trenches,” Booker said. “We’re all fighting the same war.”

Booker, a Democrat, has been a vocal advocate of educational options and accountability. At the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado, this year, he challenged his political party to reassess its position with respect to traditional public schools, private schools, public charter schools, and other educational choices.

Booker challenged the traditional public school formula where time is the constant and achievement is the variable. He proposed a change in paradigm to recognize that achievement should be the constant and time the variable, allowing such per-student flexibility as a longer school day, or a longer school year.

Booker urged a universal return to accountability for all forms of schooling, from traditional public schools to charter schools to private schools. He stressed that accountability is facilitated by creating clear standards, performing clear measurements of those standards, and implementing clear consequences for failure.

GEO Foundation founder and co-sponsor of the event, Kevin Teasley was pleased with the political diversity of the gathering. “This event brought together more than 150 people representing a very diverse cross section of our city – and of our state. This was a gathering of leaders looking beyond commonplace political battles to find new ways to educate children, a group willing to roll up their sleeves and improve Indiana’s public school system.”

“Mayor Booker was an inspiration to the charter school community, especially our charter school students who attended,” said Melanie Dozier, Associate Director of the Charter School Service Center. “He emphasized that we all play a role in helping each child achieve their academic potential. In particular, I appreciated that he stressed that he is not wedded to any specific form of school; rather, he is wedded to results.”

IPS now offers Latin in middle schools. "Suddenly, Latin became something to attract people to the magnet schools," said Joanna Taft, an Oaks parent and board members. The school choice effort has a strong bipartisan slant. Peterson, Mahern and Booker are Democrats. State Sen. Teresa Lubbers, who spearheaded charter school legislation in the General Assembly, is a Republican. So is Greg Ballard, the city's new mayor who is continuing the charter initiative. The idea isn't to bash public schools. It's to boost through the free market principle of competition the quest for excellence in all education.

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