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, July 20, 2012

Is ACTING Commissioner Cerf Really Getting a Hearing This Time?

Cross-posted from Blue Jersey

The press is reporting that ACTING NJDOE Commissioner Chris Cerf is finally going to get a confirmation hearing, after nearly two years:
Cerf's nomination first hit a snag because of a practice known as senatorial courtesy.

The unwritten rule allows state senators to block gubernatorial appointees who reside in the counties they serve from ever being considered. State Sen. Ron Rice (D-Essex) invoked the practice to block Cerf, who owns a home in Montclair. 

In January, Cerf said he had moved to an apartment in Montgomery, a town in Somerset County represented by a Republican state senator who said he had no reason to block Cerf's appointment. Cerf changed his drivers license and car insurance to reflect the new address, he told reporters at the time. 

But then Cerf's appointment hit another snag. In an interview with the Asbury Park Press in February, Cerf stumbled over his words when asked where he lives.
He responded "Montclair," before correcting himself and saying "Montgomery."

This public misstep upset some members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and his appointment stalled again. Committee Chairman Nicholas Scutari (D-Union) could not be reached for comment about the timing of his decision to consider Cerf's appointment.
Well, Cerf's interview is on the Judiciary Committee's schedule for next Thursday - along with the interviews and nominations of about two dozens other appointees. I'm sorry, but there is just no way in the world to equate the nomination of the Commissioner of Education - who wields enormous power unilaterally - with a member of the Boat Regulation Commission.

This committee can't gloss over Cerf's nomination when there are so many issues that need to be dealt with, going far beyond any questions of Cerf's residency: charter schools, virtual schools, local control, private monies influencing education policy, privatization, vouchers, the Regional Achievement Centers, superintendent wars with school boards, segregation, state monitoring scores, fair school funding, data abuse, SDA, teacher evaluation, disgruntled NJDOE staffers, exorbitant consultant fees, a 501-day late charter report, VAM vs SGP... and that's just in the last six months!

Back in February, when we first got teased about a nomination hearing, I boiled the issues surrounding Cerf's nomination down to five questions. There's just no way I could do that now: things have gotten so out of control at the NJDOE that it would be impossible to limit ourselves to such a small scope of inquiry.

The Judiciary Committee must allot enough time to get to all of the important issues two years of Christie's and Cerf's education policies have raised. Over the next few days, I will recount exactly what those issues are: stay tuned.

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