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

Friday, June 29, 2012

Broadie Infestation of NJ: Part I

Heads up, national readers: if you have any interest in the Broadification of American education, you need to check this one out, complicated as it may be.

We'll start with this: looks like old Eli got his girl installed in Jersey City:
The Jersey City Board of Education tonight voted 6-3 to start negotiations with Delaware woman Marcia V. Lyles, who the board hopes will become the city’s new schools superintendent.
The three objectors were Marilyn Roman, Angel Valentin and Sterling Waterman. Board member Carol Harrison-Arnold called Lyles a “remarkable woman,” and disputed protester’s claims that the new superintendent should come from within the 28,000-student school district.
"We need to have some outside talent along with that talent that is here,” said Harrison-Arnold, to jeering from the crowd of about 100.
Board member Carol Lester added: “We want people who are experienced and excellent educators."
Lyles’ prospective appointment has roiled a group of local officials, teachers and parents, many of whom wanted the board to select interim Superintendent Franklin Walker as the district’s new chief administrator.
Valentin called the superintendent selection process “a disgrace for our children.” [emphasis mine]
Wow, sounds testy. Why are people so suspicious of Lyles?
Lyles’ appointment has been controversial from the start, with a contingent of local officials, teachers and parents objecting to her because of her association with The Broad Superintendents Academy, a training ground for superintendents that has been criticized by teachers unions.
The academy, critics say, is in favor a slew of education reforms like merit pay for teachers and emphasizing standardized testing. Broad spokeswoman Erica Lepping said the academy, funded by billionaire Eli Broad, is widely misunderstood, and favors “a wide variety of tools” to help teachers.
Chris Cerf, the state’s acting education commissioner, is a Broad graduate, which fuels suspicion among Lyles’ critics that the state has had a hand in tapping her to replace Epps. [emphasis mine]
You know what really else fuels their suspicions? The fact that Cerf met in closed session with the board to discuss the superintendent search!
The focus of the meeting stemmed from a controversial Dec. 2 email Cerf sent Waterman in which he claimed the board was ignoring his efforts to offer input in helping find a successor to departing superintendent Charles Epps.
Cerf also wrote in his email that the board needs to act in a way which assures the next superintendent will bring “transformational change” to the state’s second largest school system. In an email sent before the meeting, Cerf’s spokesman Justin Barra declined to elaborate on what the acting commissioner meant specifically, telling JCI he would do so in the closed session.
“The commissioner is meeting with the board tonight to discuss his thoughts,” was all Barra would say.
Further, Cerf wrote in the email that it is his “obligation to explore all the options the law empowers me with” to defend the interests of city schoolchildren. This statement has caused some to fear the commissioner might be looking into trying to reassert the state’s authority by retaking full control of the school system. While the state retains its power over approving personnel and curriculum matters, the board has regained control of governance issues. The latter allows it to search for its own superintendent. [emphasis mine]
Of course Lyles was Cerf's choice. Of course he has been involved in getting his people into the Jersey City central office, just like he has been doing in Newark and Paterson and Perth Amboy and Trenton and all over the state. Why do you think Eli Broad has been funding his meddling? This is all about getting their troops into the right places so the education coup d'etat can smoothly progress.

But there's even more to this story:
Three Jersey City Board of Education members should not be permitted to vote to appoint a new schools superintendent because they received campaign cash from a hedge fund billionaire who backs controversial education reforms, a city man claims in a new court filing.
Riaz Wahid, 45, says in the filing that the contributions to the three BOE members – Vidya Gangadin, Sangeeta Ranade and Marilyn Roman – represent a conflict of interest that should preclude them from supporting Delaware woman Marcia V. Lyles, whosources say will become the city’s new schools superintendent.
Lyles is a graduate of the controversial Broad Superintendents Academy, and Wahid alleges that Livingston billionaire David Tepper “directly” and “indirectly” offers financial support for Broad. Tepper funds education-reform group Better Education for Kids.
Given Tepper’s $7,800 contribution to the three Jersey City school board members, and the $7,800 contribution from Jeffrey Kaplan, who runs Tepper’s hedge fund, the school-board trio should not be allowed to vote for Lyles’ appointment, Wahid says.
“For me, it’s a clear conflict,” he said. [emphasis mine]
Well, the judge disagreed and dismissed the lawsuit. It's certainly true, as far as I know, that David Tepper does not fund the Broad Academy. But it's also true that both Tepper and Broad financially back Students First, Michelle Rhee's astroturfing, anti-union, reformy outfit, which lists Tepper's B4K as its New Jersey "partner." Broad and Tepper definitely have aligned interests, and their donations show it.

(A side note: given what's happening in Jersey City and in Perth Amboy, it's time for Students First and B4K to come clean once and for all: what, exactly, is their relationship? How has money exchanged hands between the two groups? Open up your books once and for all, folks, so we can see who is paying to influence educational policy in New Jersey.)

So, even if the lawsuit was dismissed, I find these campaign contributions to be plenty interesting:
Ranade, who stressed that she speaks for herself and not for Gangadin or Roman, said she never met Tepper, and the trio only agreed to accept his donation after they stressed to his “team” that they do not favor charter schools, school vouchers or public-school privatization.
It's worth noting that Tepper isn't much interested in those things either: his big focus is gutting teacher workplace protections.
As for Broad, which critics allege supports all those controversial items, Ranade said Lyles was very “open” about her relationship with the academy.
“It was an opportunity for her to develop herself,” she said, adding that Lyles is “an advocate of public education.”
Tepper spokesman Eric Shuffler said the charges are "a stretch."
There is a "broad" segment of the population that supports the reforms Tepper supports, Shuffler said, adding that it's "ridiculous" to allege that the BOE members can't support a Broad graduate because Tepper gave them financial support as candidates.
"Mr. Tepper's support and advocy for pro-education reform policies and candidates who benefit kids over the status quo are well known," he said. "These three candidates, in our opinion, are pro-education reform and they're pro-kids. Mr. Tepper was proud to support them."
You have to wonder, then, how Tepper feels about one of the board members he backed not supporting Lyles. Is he fine with them not voting as a bloc?

Because, believe it or not, there's yet another wrinkle to this story: this trio of board members was backed by JC councilman and mayoral candidate Steve Fulop. One would think Tepper would be appreciative of Fulop's efforts to get his people on the board, especially since the Deputy Director of Tepper's B4K is Shelly Skinner, Fulop's former campaign director.

Well, the thrill is gone:
While saying she thinks he is well-intentioned, leading Jersey City school choice advocate Shelley Skinner tells JCI she anticipates not working so closely with Ward E Councilman Steven Fulop on education reform issues moving forward, citing an unspecified “disagreement” that has arisen since the summer.
“Steven and I have not worked together since June, and we’re not working together on issues anymore,” says Skinner. “As can happen in any long-term professional relationship, some bumps have developed along the way.”
Skinner is deputy director of Better Education for New Jersey Kids (B4K), a job she took last year after working at Jersey City’s Learning Community Charter School. She also co-founded the Jersey City Parents for Better Schools Coalition and assisted then-Republican Gov.-elect Chris Christie’s transition team, following his election, regarding education policy. Fulop has told JCI he is on board with Christie’s reforms.
Other examples of cooperation include their co-sponsoring a 2010 City Hall event featuring Wesley Tilson, a wealthy hedge fund manager and national proponent for school choice, and Fulop’s sponsoring a council resolution a year ago demanding the state provide what he and Skinner view as more equitable funding for the city’s charter schools, compared to such schools elsewhere.
Fulop’s resolution, approved 8-0, came at Skinner’s urging.
On the city board’s effort to find a new superintendent, Skinner says B4K has not organized in Jersey City or taken any official position on the matter.
“Our organization is focused right now on enacting reforms to teacher tenure laws in New Jersey,” she says. “I am involved in the search, but only as one member of the community.” [emphasis mine]
Yes, all B4K's founder has done is give money to JCBOE candidates who wound up voting for a Broadie superintendent. Sure, they're barely involved...

(And how in the hell did Tilson show up in all this? Do all reformyists now move in packs?)

Let's recap:

- A Broadie is now going to be the next Jersey City superintendent, at the obvious urging of the ACTING Education Commissioner, a fellow Broadie.

- The new super is being installed by a group BOE members that include two who were backed by the founder of B4K, which is the "partner" of Students First.

- Eli Broad is a major contributor to SF, and, possibly, B4K (we'd all like to know that exact relationship).

- A prominent member of Tepper's B4K staff, long steeped in Jersey City politics, is publicly distancing herself from the political patron of those same board members. I guess they will have to choose who they are loyal to: the cash-strapped mayoral candidate? Or the billionaire?

 Folks, I think it's well past time I updated this:

New Jersey is now Eli Broad's home away from home; he needs to take the top banana spot from Rupert (don't worry, sir, you'll still be way up there!). Broad has taken over Jersey City and Newark and Camden... but how's he now going to spread out all over the state?

I think we have a clue; more in a little while.


Galton said...

Remember the consultant in Paterson too! $7,500 a day! He too is a BROADIE! I wonder how much money is going to BROAD connected people via consulting agreements across the state!
How cheaply we have sold our policy!

Unknown said...

The broadies want NJ. If NJ goes into reformy vortex, so does the world.

Unknown said...

I work for the JCBOE...I just got a call from a colleague of mine that the new Superintendent is going to call all teachers during the summer for a "Teachers Intensive Weekend". Apparently she did the same thing in Delaware and NYC...Doesn't she know that we do not have to report until September 1? Our union reps at JCEA apparently are asleep at the wheel, even though they have only been on the job for a week...

Duke said...

Galton: didn't refernece that directly, but that's what I meant by "Paterson." It's getting hard to connect all this stuff.

jcg: I think you are right. Taking over your state on TN was the trial run; if they can make it work here, game over.

Bob: Oh I'm sure it will be "voluntary." And they'll serve hot dogs and lemonade...

The first thing "change agents" do is call all-hands-on-deck meetings to assert their authorities - it's classic CEO tactics. She's obviously a well-trained Broadie.

Keep us updated here. Thx everyone for commenting.

Unknown said...

As a right to work state, TN was an easy reformy take-over. We have no history of a strong teacher (or any worker and union) movement. The only protests that have influence are from anti-tax nuts. Teachers' tenuous grasp of influence was strung together with a 100 year Democratic party legislative majority. The Dems willingly worked with teachers thru TEA.

That reality was ended by both parties. The previous democratic gov Bredeson traded open support for Obama's health care legislation for "winning" the Race to the Top grant and, in 2010, teabaggers won all three branches of TN gov. Game, set, match.
We have a TfA commissioner of Ed (Kevin Huffman, ex of Rhee) who is actively working to starve public colleges of education.

Teaching in TN will become a service profession once they get their paws on our retirement. Next year, vouchers, the year after, teachers will need no training other than an online BS.

Our teacher evaluation metric was designed by Michael Milken to keep only 15% of teachers employed for more than 3 yrs and our press, business community,and educators can't round out the ramifications of any of these reforms.

NJ will be gold for privatizers on so many levels. Imagine the opportunities for politicians like Booker & Christie who are staking their rise on miracle school turn arounds, propped up with fake data.