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

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Star-Ledger: Privatizers? What Privatizers?

Whatever you think about ACTING NJDOE Commissioner Chris Cerf's nomination, this sentence by the Star-Ledger editorial board is simply absurd:
Sen. Ron Rice (D-Essex) started this ball rolling. He insists that Cerf is at the center of some apocalyptic conspiracy by hedge fund managers to take over public schools and privatize them for profits. [emphasis mine]
Yeah, about that crazy "conspiracy":
The three of the four virtual charters currently up for approval have two things in common: they are going to be managed by K12 Inc., and they will be based in Newark (the fourth, based in Monmouth County, also is reportedly aligned with K12; it appears to be replicating services already provided by an agency in Monmouth for a fraction of the proposed costs). 
According to both the New York Times and the Nation, K12 Inc. works very hard to cultivate political connections across the country, spending nearly half-a-million dollars on direct contributions in state-level races. 
What the articles fail to document, however, are the contributions made by members of K12's board of directors. K12's chairman until very recently was Andrew Tisch, of the famous New York Tisch family. Reports are that Tisch stepped down as chairman just a few weeks ago, but still appears to still serve on the board. He also appears to have been very well-compensated for his position, receiving both stock and options grants from the company. 
Why does this matter? 
Because Andrew Tisch and his family are Newark Mayor Cory Booker's biggest financial supporters. According to NJ elections records, Tisch and his wife, Ann, gave just a hair less than the maximum allowable contribution to Booker's last mayoral campaign. Andrews's cousins, Laurie Sussman Tisch and Jonathan Tisch, both gave the maximum amount. Other members of the family are also heavy hitters in the Booker campaign.
Remember the name: Teachers Village. It's a $150 million, mixed-use development that just broke ground with great fanfare in Newark. The idea is that teachers will live in the complex and teach at one of the three charter schools that will occupy the site.

As you might imagine, your taxpayers dollars are funding this experiment:
The project was awarded nearly $40 million in Urban Transit Hub tax credits from the state Economic Development Authority and allocated $60 million in federal New Markets tax credits for the school portion. Other public financing came from the city of Newark, the state Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, and federal Qualified School Construction Bonds, according to an EDA memo. Private financing came from Goldman Sachs, Prudential Financial Corp., TD Bank and New Jersey Community Capital, Beit said. In the early months of the recession, Beit said, Berggruen’s unwavering commitment to the project — Berggruen said he considers his investment "long-term" — brought everyone else together.
  • The lead developer, Ron Beit, gives great credit to Nicolas Berggruen's "unwavering commitment" to the project. Guess who Berggruen's good buddy in Los Angeles is? Eli Broad. Yes, the same Eli Broad who paid ACTING Commissioner Chris Cerf's old firm $500,000 to write up a plan to convert many of Newark's pubic schools into charters. Everyone OK with that?
If Senator Rice is crazy, he's crazy like a fox. But the editorial writers at the S-L remind me of another animal - one that buries its head in the sand because it doesn't want to see the truth.

Star-Ledger Editorial Board meeting

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