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, October 27, 2011

The Ed Reform Gravy Train

It's a-puffin' into Newark - all aboard!
One of every three dollars of private money spent so far in Newark’s bid to reform its schools has gone to consultants and contractors, many with ties to Mayor Cory Booker and acting state Education Commissioner Chris Cerf, records show.
The records, from the state Department of Education, are part of a spate of e-mails obtained by the Newark-based Education Law Center. They detail for the first time how the Foundation for Newark’s Future has spent the first $13 million of the $148 million donated by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and other philanthropists to help turn around the city’s struggling public school system.
While the foundation — the group created to distribute the money — spent $7.4 million between January and September of this year on school-based programs, it has also spent $4.3 million on political and educational consultants. At least $3.9 million of the consultant spending has gone to companies and individuals with ties to Cerf and Booker, records show. [emphasis mine]
Well, gosh, that's just such a huge surprise. I mean, it's not like these guys have a history of this stuff or anything...

Keep in mind that Cerf remains the Acting Commissioner because Senator Ron Rice is angry that he can't get forthcoming answers from either Cerf or Booker about what's been going down in Newark's industrial-education complex. Cerf came into the job under a cloud and things are only getting murkier. Looks like Rice was on to something.

(An aside: this past spring, the Star-Ledger editorial page was indignant that Rice was holding up Cerf's appointment; heh, looks like Rice had it right. Once again, the reporters at the S-L who cover the education beat are way ahead of the paper's op-ed pages.)

The article continues:
In one of the e-mails released earlier this month, Cerf praised his former company for its work in recommending reform and helping with the transition between superintendents. 
"The world may never know or appreciate what you accomplished between last December and the transition to Cami," Cerf wrote, referring to Newark superintendent Cami Anderson. "This effort saved the district from complete meltdown, enabled an orderly transition to Cami’s amazing leadership, and avoided a ‘lost year’ in the reform effort." [emphasis mine]
And that is the entire problem with the Zuckerberg gift, Chris Cerf, and indeed the entire Christie administration: we don't know what they are doing. These guys are as transparent as a lead-lined safe; no one knows what's happening.

This is why they love that billionaire money: they can keep everything on the down-low and make their moves without having to deal with all of that pesky democracy and local control jive. It's why they took Eli Broad's cash to get the ball rolling, and why they're doling out goodies to their pals on Zuckerberg's dime right now.

But let's be honest: a few million here and there is chump change to these guys. The stakes are much bigger: as Cerf said, this is a "$650 billion sector." They are looking for a much larger transformation: the Haliburtonization of education is the ultimate goal.

And Newark is the perfect place to set up a base: not just because of a Democratic corporatist mayor and a Republican corporatist governor, but because the people of Newark have no say in the governance of their own schools.

Heaven forbid democracy ever returns to Newark. The good people of that working-class city might decide they've had enough of the secret deals between people who don't live with them. They might insist on knowing what plans are being made on behalf of their deserving children. They may have the gumption to insist that THEY should determine how to school their children, not billionaires living thousands of miles away.

And they may actually point out that maybe unionized teachers really aren't the problem in their communities. Wouldn't that be... inconvenient?

No comments: