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

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Halliburton High

Why bother with "Opportunity Scholarships" and charter schools when you can just give taxpayer money directly to the corporate reformers?
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.
The great thing about this is that NJ cities have such a clean track record of hiring private contractors...

But give the Star-Ledger credit: they are finally putting all the pieces together:
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.
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).

Unfortunately, the S-L missed a couple of things. First, here's how they characterize the record of Edison under Cerf:
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.
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.

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...


calugg said...

It's called "looting." The opportunistic pols and political bosses want public education to function as well as our health care system so politically connected "reformy types" can grab as much public cash as possible.


When pols start talking about privatizing public services, hang on to your wallet, particularly since Norcross was once the guy Christie was trying to put in jail for corruption, but a few short years ago.

These privatization cats are cynical beyond belief. They KNOW that poverty drives the bulk of student academic achievement, so like buzzards, they will privatize the poorest of public school districts in the name of "reform" knowing conditions will deteriorate. And like buzzards, they will literally pick over the still twitching body of NJ urban education, tearing free any money they can find, leaving the NJ taxpayers to deal with the corpse once they're through.

And they're so greedy they'll take non-facts (see Arendt) generated by some think-tanker hack (see Baker) to try to take this scheme state-wide in just a few short years.

Just you watch.

Duke said...


Perfect. That is EXACTLY the right word.

Thanks, Professor L!