June 5, 2012
The Honorable Arcelio Aponte, PresidentNew Jersey State Board of EducationRiver View Executive PlazaBuilding 100, P.O. Box 500Trenton, NJ 08625-0500
Re: Resolutions Approving Receipt of Funds from Broad and Start Up: Education Foundations
Dear Mr. Aponte and fellow members of the State Board:
I write to request that the State Board of Education defer consideration of Resolutions approving the Department of Education's receipt of "donated funds" of $430,000 from the Broad Foundation and $200,000 from the Start Up: Education Foundation. These resolutions are set forth as attachments to the State Board June 6 meeting agenda.
In presenting these resolutions to the State Board and the public, the Acting Commissioner provides only a vague, general description of the purpose for which these Foundations have provided these funds to the Department. The Acting Commissioner has not made public all of the underlying documentation relating to receipt of these grants, specifically: the Acting Commissioner's draft and final grant proposals soliciting the funds, and any other documents specifying the specific plans for expending the funds, if received; notifications awarding the funds to the Department; the grant agreements between the Acting Commissioner and the Foundations, including the terms, conditions, contingencies and any other requirements imposed by the Foundations for receipt of the funds; and the required approval of the Governor's office for receipt of the funds. In addition, the Acting Commissioner should be required to provide justification for soliciting these funds to support the activities of the Department of Education outside of the required public bidding procedures through the State Treasurer.
Further, it is our understanding that the Acting Commissioner has accepted at least two other grants from the Broad Foundation to support the Department's activities. For example, in July 2011, the Acting Commissioner signed separate grant agreements with Broad for $59,000 and $49,000 to support the employment by the Department of two individuals, Bing Howell and Rochelle Sinclair. To our knowledge, these donated funds were received by the Department without prior approval of the State Board and the Governor, as required by N.J.S.A.18A:4-26.
In light of these substantial concerns, and the need for transparency, accountability and public confidence in the Department's activities, we request that the State Board defer consideration of the Resolutions until such time as the Acting Commissioner provides all relevant documentation, as set forth above, for State Board and public review and comment.
Thank you for your consideration of this matter. If I can be of assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.
"Transparency, accountability and public confidence" - all the things private grants from Eli Broad help ACTING Commissioner Cerf and Chris Christie avoid. The only things I'd add to that list are "local control" and "legislative oversight."Respectfully,David G. Sciarra, Esq.Executive Director
Again: Eli Broad is not a citizen of New Jersey. He pays no taxes here (that I know of). He has no children or grandchildren in our public schools.
Yet he has populated the NJDOE with his acolytes, pushing out career staff. He has more say over the future of Newark's schools than the people who teach and send their kids there. He is influencing state-wide policy in profound and troubling ways. His reach extends into districts all over the state.
Yet this man - though an ACTING education commissioner who is unelected and not even confirmed -he is wielding enormous power over what is, arguably, the highest-performing state-wide school system in the country. And he has used a relatively small amount of money to do so.
It is well past time for the NJ Legislature to step in and exercise its constitution obligation to oversee the management of our schools.
When you have an infestation, you need to call an exterminator...