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

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Eli Broad Buys New Jersey's Schools

Tomorrow, Eli Broad will buy New Jersey's schools... and at a bargain price!
The State Board of Education tomorrow will have two unusual resolutions before it to accept more than $600,000 in outside funds from two foundations:
  • $200,000 from StartUp:Education, the national foundation created by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
  • $430,000 from the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the California-based organization that has helped train and support three of the administration’s top education officials, including acting Commissioner Chris Cerf.
If approved as expected, the money will go to several distinct projects, officials said yesterday. The StartUp money will be earmarked for research into best practices around school turnarounds nationwide, and toward the hiring of a grant writer in the department to seek additional funds.
This funding is not connected with Zuckerberg’s separate $100 million gift to Newark schools, also through StartUp.
The Broad Foundation money would go to two places, according to officials: $290,000 for professional training of staff in the administration’s planned Regional Achievement Centers, the hub of its efforts for improving the state’s lowest-performing schools; and $140,000 to bolster the state’s oversight of charter schools. The outside funding is a new twist for the department that has been depleted in resources, even as Gov. Chris Christie presses a greater state presence in public schools, especially in low-performing schools.
Such foundations have contributed to New Jersey schools individually and through their districts for years, and Broad has paid for consultants for the state, including in Cerf’s first year. [emphasis mine]
Everybody figure out the game yet? Christie comes in and starves the department; Broad comes in and gives sorely needed funds to his pet causes. Nice.

So what, exactly, are these "Regional Achievement Centers"? Simple: they're a way for old Eli to get what he wants without having to worry about all that pesky rule-of-law stuff:
“They will be headed by, I hope, some of the best educators in the country, and they will be responsible for a very specific degree of improvement in things like graduation rates, reducing dropouts, or increasing third-grade literacy,” he said. [emphasis mine]
"I hope"?!?! That's the best you can offer? You "hope" they are headed by good educators?

Hey, I've got a nutty idea: how's about we put "some of the best educators in the country" in front of the kids?

The new offices will be the first widespread shakeup of the state’s county operations in close to a decade, since a department reorganization under one of Cerf’s predecessors divided the offices into north, south and central regions. That configuration soon broke down under budget constraints and other concerns.
Still, the latest moves do raise questions as to the role of the 21 county offices, each once led by a governor-appointed executive county superintendent. Those rolls were decimated last year, when half were not renewed by Gov. Chris Christie, and the others doubled up on their duties.
The superintendent positions were created by legislation and will remain at least in title, but Cerf said different people may be filling those slots when the current superintendents' terms expire. Either way, they will come under the new regional centers, largely serving in a regulatory and compliance role.
The functions of the county offices, now independent, will report up to the regional centers,” Cerf explained afterward. “The budget reviews, the compliance and regulatory functions will not exist in isolation but will exist as part of a larger structure whose central mission is achievement.” [emphasis mine]
Let's be very clear about what has happened here: Eli Broad has paid a relatively small amount (for him) to the NJDOE. In exchange, he gets to bypass the legally appointed people who are supposed to oversee schools, and replace them with cronies of his boy, Chris Cerf. These people will get to define "achievement" in whatever way they see fit. What does that mean for your local school?
The RACs are yet to be staffed, but the state has released an outline to how they would be spread across the state, each covering between five and 72 different schools. One center will cover both Bergen and Passaic counties, including Paterson, and work with 45 schools overall.
They will include both instructional experts, but also specialists in data, “culture and climate,” and “human capital.”
“So the state will pay to have a third party come in and improve our culture and climate,” said Rosie Grant of the Paterson Education Fund.
“These are the people who will decide how to turn around our schools,” she said. “You can forget about local control.” [emphasis mine]
That is exactly right. For less than half a million clams, Eli Broad has knocked the legs out from under every local school district in the state.

"Oh, Jazzman, get real!" I hear the reformies say. "We're only talking about the struggling schools! They're going to leave everyone else alone!"

Yeah, sure they are. Which is why they are taking tenure away in all of the schools; and making all of the high schools administer tests in 9th, 10th, and 11th, Grade; and talking about merit pay in all of the schools; and forcing charters into high-performing districts; and attempting to set up virtual-charters in the 'burbs; and talking about putting SAT scores on high school transcripts; and forcing test-based teacher evaluations in all schools; and...*

Seriously: do you think these RACs are going to settle for sticking their noses into a mere 75 schools? Do you think ACTING Commissioner Cerf - a guy who talks about education as "a $650 billion sector" - is going to settle for just a few impoverished cities? When he can have the entire state - one of the wealthiest in the nation - at his disposal?

Would Eli settle for that? I doubt it...

The whole thing stinks on ice. Eli Broad is not a New Jersey resident; he pays no New Jersey taxes. Why does Broad get to buy education policy for this state for a mere $430,000? 

If these Regional Achievement Centers are so freakin' wonderful, let the unelected and unconfirmed ACTING Commissioner make his case before the NJ legislature that they should be funded. Let the full funding come from the taxpayers, who have a vested interest in the success of New Jersey's schools.

Eli Broad has no business sticking his nose into the administration of New Jersey public education. He has no right to buy a system of centers that will be staffed at the discretion of his boy, Chris Cerf, which can supersede the oversight capabilities of the county superintendents - administrators empowered by statute.

We are supposed to be a representative democracy. Lets start acting like one.

It's good to staff Regional Achievement Centers!

*Sometimes, I get tired of linking to myself. It's all there; use the Google. 

1 comment:

Galton said...

Well done!
I'm guessing the "experts" will be similar to Cerf himself:
No Expeience in a public school at any level, connected to BROAD, and a history of failure!

I say if we are going to be purchased, our price should be much higher! Ha,
Thank you for your "reporting".