I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Monday, October 3, 2011

Top-Secret Reformers!

The corporate education "reform" movement here in Jersey is hiding more secrets than a James Bond villain. For example: who is approving all these new charters?
The DOE has only a handful of staffers who oversee charter schools and it can’t carefully review every application it gets on its own. This year, a record 58 candidates sought to open charters.
So to help with the painstaking selection effort, the state enlisted more than a dozen unpaid volunteers, experts on charters and education who reviewed the applications and gave recommendations. Ultimately, the DOE made the final decision and approved 23 of those schools.
Now, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey and state Sen. Nia Gill (D-Essex) aredemanding the DOE identify the volunteers, to make sure there are no conflicts of interest.
That’s a good idea — not because there’s evidence of anything objectionable, but because the public has a right to know. It will protect the integrity of the very necessary job these screeners are doing. And it’s just one more way of ensuring that the very best charter schools are chosen.
The DOE doesn’t want to release the names, saying volunteers have a "reasonable expectation of privacy." But that’s not justification enough. The screeners are performing a public job, and any charters chosen for the wrong reasons would hurt the growth of good ones.
Note to the Star-Ledger: how can you say these people are "experts" when you don't even know who they are? The NJDOE has a track record of stocking panels with people whose expertise is quite questionable. The current teacher evaluation task force has the poster boy for tenure, Rafael Fajardo, and Derrell "Promote the Reformer" Bradford. Why would anyone believe the charter panel is full of experts when the teacher evaluation panel has so few?

Further: Acting Commissioner Cerf has a questionable past when it comes to conflict of interest. Deputy Commissioner Smarick also has some interesting ties outside of the DOE. How do we know there isn't more of the same involved here? One might be led to believe the DOE might be embarrassed if these reviewers are exposed...

All of this comes on the heels of yet another new group that's taking out ads to proclaim how wonderful Chris Christie's fuzzy-on-the-details "reform" agenda is:
Gov. Chris Christie said today he will not tell a group that is advertising and promoting his reform policies in some states to disclose their funding.
“It’s up to them,” he said at a press conference on Tuesday. “It’s their group…I have nothing to do with the group. If they are out there helping me, I say thank you very much.”
The group, Committee for Our Children's Future (CCF), a 501(c)(4) organization, said on Tuesday it launched a $1.5 million cable TV ad campaign in New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia to promote the reform measures Christie has been pushing.
Over at Blue Jersey, the promised land has exposed some interesting connections between the group and Christie. It's all in the shadows, though - very hush-hush.

I wonder: if the corporate "reform" plan is so freakin' great, why are so many people afraid to be associated with it?

We work in the shadows....

(Gosh, I hope that picture didn't offend Matt Yglesias...)


darcie said...

You know that in the last round your buddy Derrell was a charter application reviewer, right??


Apparently his "expertise" knows no bounds...

Duke said...

Oh, yes. That's where he met he second in command.