Cory Booker: Heading for the Senate or the USS Enterprise?

AMA WITH A POLITICIAN: Doing an Ask Me Anything with a politician can seem like an oxymoron. But Newark mayor (and aspiring candidate for the US Senate) Cory Booker took to Reddit on Sunday evening with some candid assessments of the "war on drugs, on Newark's problems and a bit of humor. He didn't get to all the questions on education but did offer some comments on ours:

On drugs: 

"The drug war is an absolute failure. It is consuming gross amounts of our national treasure and destroying the lives of millions of people that could, with the right policy, be far more productive in our society. More than this, it is a strong contributor to the continuance of cycles of poverty and the further frustration of existing gross racial disparities. I am outraged by this reality and have and will dedicate much of my time and energy to helping our nation get out of this trap that is adversely affecting all of us.

On Political Road Rage (and his relationship with NJ Governor, Chris Christie): 

"Frankly, I am a bit exhausted by the partisan nature of our nation and the mistaken belief that we can't be fierce advocates for important issues and not be civil to one another . . . even friends with one another. We are losing something if we can't even show kindness to each other, can't laugh with each other, can't bond or connect across our disagreements."  

On running for President: 

"Unequivocally I would consider running for President of the New Jersey Star Trek Club in 2016. I have been a lifelong Trekker and to run for such an important position would be the fulfillment of a childhood dream - up there with defending the Earth from The Borg." 

On education: Yours truly asked about education. Booker offered a couple of ideas but seemed mum on what role Mark Zuckerberg's funding has had. 

If you teach or work or study in Newark, we'd love to hear how your impressions compare with Booker's:   

EdSurge: Hi there! What's the biggest win in education that you've had in Newark since you've been mayor? Is Zuckerberg's $ making a difference for students & teachers?

[–]corybooker[S] 182 points  ago

"I'd love to get into some specific policy victories AND please check out the website documenting the strategies in which we have invested the philanthropy. Foundationfornewarksfuture.org

But I would say the biggest win is that we have put education at the center of our policy and community agenda. I've seen more debate, discussion, collaboration, investment, philanthropy, passion, change, and movement around education in the last few years than in the previous ten. We don't have unanimity of ideas in Newark but everyone is far more focused and involved in education than before I was mayor.

There is no greater call for a community than to secure pathways for success for its children. There is no greater imperative for our country than to ensure that all of our kids - no matter what their background - have an abundant opportunity to develop their genius, gifts and dreams. Our democracy is dependent upon a robust and excellent educational system.

I am so proud that we have significantly increased the number of high performing seats available to Newark kids by expanding high performing magnet schools, charter schools, and opening new public school models. Further, I am proud that we are not tolerating the long term enduring failures of individual schools who are not serving the genius of our kids and have had the courage to close low performing, low enrollment schools that were failing at unacceptable rates. But your question was what was the biggest education win . . .

I'd say the it was pulling everyone together and getting a new teacher's contract passed and accepted. From the unions to our republican governor, everyone came together and agreed that we would have a contract that focused on empowering teachers, thorough support in professional development, substantive peer review, and specific financial incentives for teachers that accept more significant challenges or who perform at high standards. Please find out more about Newark's advanced teacher's contract. It is a model for the country. And affirms what I believe is so important: Our teachers are the most important factor in a school that will affect student performance. We must support them, empower them, help them develop in their profession, give them more compensation and ultimately hold them accountable for results through a fair evaluation system.

Finally, remember, while teachers are the most important in school determinant of student success THE most important determining factor of a student's success is what happens at home and in the community. We have done some substantive things to work on this issue. One of the innovative ones I'm proud of is a program called "My Very Own Library" - that will by the end of this year help almost half of our grade school students have 10 or more books of their own choosing to own at home. This is part of a larger literacy effort going on in our city. Please read about that too on the same site."

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