The great thing about this is that NJ cities have such a clean track record of hiring private contractors...He called it a pilot program, an "experiment," a restoration of hope.It was also — for better or worse — an historic moment.Gov. Chris Christie proposed Thursday that private companies play an unprecedented role in public education, managing some schools and creating others from the ashes of dysfunctional ones.The governor said the state would launch its experiment in five chronically failing schools where students are hopelessly mired in traditional approaches to education that have utterly collapsed."This pilot program will provide an innovative alternative for those children who need it most, bolstering our efforts to ensure opportunity for every child in our state," the governor said. "This program will begin to restore hope in communities where failing schools deny children hope and opportunity."Districts wanting to participate in the five-year program would have to apply. If selected, they could either allow a private company to come in and manage a failing school or authorize a company to launch a new school.
But give the Star-Ledger credit: they are finally putting all the pieces together:
I'll only add that some of us were pointing out Cerf's very questionable business practices all the way back in January (and that's only because folks in NYC like Leonie Haimson documented his antics so well).Acting state Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf has experience in public-private school partnerships, having formerly led Edison Schools, now called Edison Learning. He left the company in 2005.Christie is also connected to for-profit education companies, including Cerf’s. From 1999 to 2001, he was a registered lobbyist at a law firm that lobbied state government on behalf of Edison Schools, according to filings with the state Election Law Enforcement Commission. While the firm, Dughi Hewit and Palatucci, was representing the company, Cerf was its general counsel.The firm also represented Mosaica Education, a for-profit charter school operator, and the University of Phoenix, a for-profit online university. At the time, the firm listed two lobbyists, Christie and William Palatucci, a political ally of the governor who is a partner in the firm.
Unfortunately, the S-L missed a couple of things. First, here's how they characterize the record of Edison under Cerf:
That's a pretty tame assessment of Edison: many reports found their reign to be a disaster. The S-L also forgot to remind us of Cerf's sleazy stock deal using teacher pension funds (yeah, you read that right) to enrich himself, or his lies to the parents of NYC about that deal. Read my whole report for the sordid details.When Edison Schools Inc. lobbied for a contract to take-over 20 failing schools in Philadelphia, the for-profit company promised greater academic achievement and a lower per pupil cost than what the state could provide.The results Edison Schools achieved did not match its pitch.One study found students in the company’s schools scored no better on standardized reading and math exams than their peers in other city schools.
Second, NJ Spotlight picked up on an audience member the S-L missed:
This time, Democratic power-broker George Norcross wasn’t on stage with the governor, but at the rear of the sweltering crowd gathered yesterday for Gov. Chris Christie’s second visit to Camden in a week.
The governor was introducing his "Transformation Schools" plan, a small pilot program that would permit private companies to take over the management of select poorly performing public schools.
But even though the governor was at the podium, much of the attention was on Norcross.
With good reason.
Norcross -- who characterized the Camden public school system as a "prison" and a "sewer"— spoke to reporters at length and said that his family foundation and the Cooper Health System and University Hospital, of which he is chairman, plan to provide resources for what could be a chain of charter schools.
But Norcross sounded like a man who viewed those more as formalities than obstacles. He spoke at length about the crisis in Camden schools and the urgency in providing choices to families. He said some of his plans could also incorporate Christie’s for public-private partnerships, but the central point is a new school that will be located on the Lanning Square site.
"We’re moving ahead regardless," he said. "There is no question there will be a school there, but the question is will it be a charter or something like the governor discussed today."
He called some of Camden’s public schools little more than "juvenile prisons." [emphasis mine]Now that's an interesting analogy. Because you know what a lot of people are trying to do to our prisons?
Privatize them. Gosh, you don't think Norcross sees a connection, do you?
And so the continuing Halliburtonization of our state's school system continues apace. I'm sure the kids in Camden are feeling much more "hopeful" now that they know private companies are coming in to take more of the dollars meant to buy them books and pay their teachers...