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

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Lawbreaking and Open Corruption Sewer at NJ DOE

New Jersey state politics has long enjoyed a reputation for corruption, second only to Louisiana, perhaps.  Now it would seem that Chris Christie's henchmen like Acting Ed Commish, Chris Cerf, may be able to move Jersey into first place.

Cerf's open contempt for state laws governing education policy seems to be his strong suit, although a case could be made that his embedded linkages with the corporate school industry appear even more prominent.  Cerf's most recent acquisition of former EdisonLearning lawyer, Evo Popoff, makes a strong case for the latter, while Cerf's illegal attempts to alter NJ state charter law would favor the former.

A wrap-up of the most recent news on the Jersey Cerfdom.  HT to Stan Karp:

Star Ledger
More than three dozen local school officials, parents, teachers and advocates packed a Trenton meeting room Wednesday to testify before the state Board of Education on proposed charter school regulations that would, among other things, make it easier for virtual charters to operate. The state board took no action Wednesday on the regulations, but it heard from speaker after speaker who said the rules would take control from local communities; violate existing charter school law; or destroy public schools.

ELC cited explicit language in the current charter law, originally adopted in 1995, that puts strict limits on the ability of the Department to expand or modify the charter school program: “The commissioner may not implement any recommended expansion, modification, or termination of the [charter school] program until the Legislature acts on that recommendation." N.J.S.A. 18A:36A-16(e) [emphasis added] Despite this clear limitation, the Acting Commissioner’s proposed changes seek to expand and modify the existing charter school program in multiple ways. “In six areas – virtual charter schools, restructured renewal, satellite campus, amendment of charters, one year conditional renewal, and summary revocation – the Acting Commissioner's proposal represents a completely unauthorized expansion and/or substantial modification of the charter school program.”

Almost 3400 signatures and counting…

NJ Spotlight
The usually sleepy board meetings grew crowded by afternoon as advocates and those who signed up as “concerned citizens” filled two small hearing rooms to object to the charter regulation changes. Those testifying came mostly from suburbia, communities like Princeton, Westfield, South Brunswick and Cherry Hill, where the growth of charter schools under Christie have seen their stiffest resistance. Some said the new charter regulations were an outright threat to public education, contending among many complaints that they violate existing state law and could potentially cost local taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. “The destabilizing impact of these measures cannot be overstated, and you can be very sure that the destabilization will be dramatic and immediate,” said Andrea Spalla, a member of the Princeton Regional Schools board of education.

NJ Spoltight also reported that the State Board approved the hiring of Evo Popoff as “Chief Innovation Officer.” Popoff is “a former senior vice president of Edison Learning, a for-profit education company where Cerf once worked. Popoff, who attended the meeting but wasn’t made available to reporters, has held a host of positions at Edison Learning, the New York-based corporation that was an early pioneer in private school management companies. Popoff, a lawyer, joined Edison in 2004, and his resume includes work with local districts in the company’s school improvement, extended learning and online programs…Starting this week, Popoff will earn $138,000, just shy of Cerf’s $141,200 salary, officials said.”

Star Ledger
With little discussion in public session, the state Board of Education today accepted donations totalling more than $600,000 from two private foundations. After the Newark-based Education Law Center wrote a letter to the board requesting that they defer accepting the funds, citing the "need for transparency, accountability and public confidence," the board asked the state Attorney General's Office if their objections had any merit, board members said. The matter was discussed in closed session, citing the "legal letter." But board member Ron Butcher said "in their (the AG's) mind, there are no issues.

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