"A child's learning is the funtion more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Booker to Call for Transparency? Too Little, Too Late

At his state of the city address tonight, Newark Mayor Cory Booker will call for greater transparency when it comes to private donations that impact public schools. This comes after the revelation that state education commissioner Christopher Cerf incorporated a for-profit company that was paid $500,000 by the Broad Foundation to write up a reform plan for the Newark Public Schools. Educators and parents were rightfully upset by this revelation, especially considering Mayor Booker's assertion that there would be a significant public input and involvement in the reform process.

In January, the Mayor's office rejected an open public records request from the Newark branch of the NAACP. Below is their request, which would certainly allow the public to see how, when, and why some of this money ($143 million and counting) was lined up (h/t to Stan Karp):

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And the city's response (click here for a more readable image):

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The nearly complete rejection of the NAACP's request effectively squashes any transparency. Although it's helpful to know dollar figures and names, the relevant materials would be any communication between the Mayor and other actors involved. What stipulations were made when this $143 million+ was lined up for school reform? This is policy behind closed doors, and only the wealthy and connected are invited. So much for being open and transparent.

[As a side note, a number of players in this saga are connected to Democrats for Education Reform. Mayor Booker and William Ackman are part of DFER's board of advisors. The Pershing Square Foundation is Ackerman's foundation. Ravenel Curry III, a board member of the Manhattan Institute, donated $50,000 to DFER's 501c3, Education Reform Now. His son, Ravenel Curry IV, is on DFER's board of directors. Both Currys are part of Eagle Capital Management. Additionally, Cerf donated $500 to DFER back in January of 2009.]

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