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"When someone says 'it's not about money', it's about money." -    H.L. Mencken

Earlier, as the overt push for privatizing New Jersey's public schools was just getting started, I wanted to bring attention to some of the strange theories and characters who were spearheading the effort. I was under the impression that they were promoting a justifiably unpopular vision based on pure conviction and that when confronted by the force of democracy would be defeated. The privatizers claimed it was about the kids and their way was superior to the tried and true system that works in the wealthier parts of the state. I thought this was a genuine contest of ideas.

I was fundamentally wrong. This is not about ideas, this is about money.  

That truth was made clear when Christopher Cerf was named acting Education Commissioner. Cerf is, without a doubt, a businessman posing as a public servant. Jack Grubman, a former securities analyst for Salomon Smith Barney commenting on corruption on Wall Street said that “what used to be a conflict of interest has now become a synergy.” In that case, Cerf brings a lot of "synergies" to the position of State Education Commissioner.

Before moving on to Cerf it seems appropriate to explore the interests of the man who appointed him. That man is our duly elected Governor, Christopher "The Bat" Christie.

Christie also has an extensive history with the business of privatizing public education.  Despite a recent statement at the American Enterprise Institute where Christie said  "I never had a job in Trenton before I became Governor";  he did. Christie was a registered lobbyist in Trenton from 1999-2001. Far from a "Trenton Outsider" Christie was in high demand, he had all the right connections. He was hired by the Securities Industry Association to prevent stocks and bonds from being included in the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, mid-Atlantic Power Supply Association for Enron style energy deregulation and even a little mom and pop outfit known as Edison Schools Inc. for privatizing public schools; That's right folks; Christie was Edison's lobbyist in Trenton.

So you could even say Christie not only definitely "had a job in Trenton before he was Governor"; he had the same job he thinks he has now; privatizing public education to profit his friends.

After Christie, along with a company named Wireless Generation (remember that name), sabotaged New Jersey out of $400 million in order to stick it to the NJEA he needed a fall guy and chose former Education Commissioner Brett Schundler. So now the state was not only out $400 million in desperately needed education funds it was also out an Education Commissioner. What to do? Christie decided to look for talent from his old employer/current campaign donor Edison Schools Inc. and he found a willing former President and Chief Operating Officer of Edison Schools; Christie's old boss Christopher Cerf.

Yes - Christie used to work for Cerf. In 2001 while Christie was Edison’s registered lobbyist, Cerf was Edison’s President and COO.

Oh what tangled webs we weave when we wish to deceive (on a Race to the Top Application). But let's get back to Cerf.  

Cerf was President and COO of Edison Schools Inc. for eight years running the company into the ground and requiring to get bailed out by the Florida Teachers Pension Fund in a corrupt deal brokered by Governor Jeb Bush. Cerf held on to his equity in the company until media attention forced him to divest when he took another public job for his private benefit in New York under New York City Chancellor Joel Klein, a long time privatization activist. Cerf, while a partner in the Public Private Strategy Group,  extracted some nice fees serving as Klein's Chief Advisor on Transformation, leading "efforts to redesign the financial and  organizational structure of the nation's largest school district."  Cha-ching!  

Along with his Public/Private/Privatizing business Cerf went to crony capitalism school. Cerf  "graduated" from the Broad Urban Superintendents Academy in 2004. The what? Exactly, at least diploma mills grant fake degrees that sound like real degrees. Broad Urban Superintendent Academy is essentially a privatizing seminar program for the Broad Foundation  which, like a lot of these foundations, is a front for business interests. Just play the Trump Apprentice Theme Song in your head, you'll understand.

"Degree" in hand and a wealth of experience in extracting economic rents from taxpayers, Cerf founded Global Education Advisors and became the Chief Executive Officer of Sangari Global Education. And by the way, if you want to talk cookie-cutter corporate marketing check out the Sangrai  website (1980s called they want their infomercial music back). Sangari, an openly for-profit business, makes money peddling textbooks and "consulting" with public schools.

Global Education Advisors is giving Cerf some Edison-style issues –  first he said he was not connected to the company, then admitted he  founded it and now is leaving the door open to still financially profiting from it as it gets business from the state on studying privatizing education – more "synergies"!  

So now the question becomes scope. Is this all just a quid pro quo  between Christie and Cerf, a payback for years of throwing business  Christie’s way? You know, typical Jersey stuff. Or is there a larger  strategy at work? How does Derrell "Dangerous Minds" Bradford fit into of all of this? Why is Cory Booker giving Cerf's company secret contracts to study privatizing Newark's schools?

Who is going to make money if Christie, Cerf, Klein, Bradford and others  get their way?  

Part 2 tomorrow.

Cross-Posted on Blue Jersey

Originally posted to DSWright on Mon Apr 18, 2011 at 10:04 AM PDT.

Also republished by oo and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Good diary that deserves more attention (11+ / 0-)

    The New York Times today also has an article about how many of the leading lights in the school reform movement themselves attended private schools. And no doubt their kids mostly do too.

  •  Cerf is a fraud. (10+ / 0-)

    If the NJ legislature is smart, he'll never get approved as Comm of Ed.

    If you liked Big Pharma and Big Agriculture, wait til you meet Big Education. Big Ed is going to fuck us all in the ass.

    by TheGreatLeapForward on Mon Apr 18, 2011 at 11:50:49 AM PDT

  •  Thank you for this (9+ / 0-)

    People are finally starting to connect the dots on "school reform," your diary comes at the perfect time.

  •  Two Seattle Blogs - OUR Deformistas are Gates (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SadieB, DSWright, musicalhair, JanL

    and a bunch of his astro turf orgs in the area.

    Two Seattle Blogs have done a MUCH better job than the Washington Education Association (WEA) at exposing the astro turf white collar cronyism,

    which isn't corruption

    cuz a bunch of went to Ivy's & fancy colleges, and

    cuz a bunch of them have / had Fortune 500 jobs, and

    cuz a bunch of them live in the same kind of upper middle cla$$ neighborhood$ filled with DLC style apologi$t$.


    Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look; He thinks too much: such men are dangerous

    by seabos84 on Mon Apr 18, 2011 at 12:14:27 PM PDT

  •  School Reform (4+ / 0-)

    Private business could not overlook the billions available to them in "education."  One only needs to realize how heavily the Bush family  (yes, THAT Bush family) is invested in reforming education to see the humorous (albeit it tragic) aspects of this process.  Public education was the great equalizer.  Now it will be for those who cannot afford a crack at the truly elite schools - we are not talking charter, but elite, big dollar schools.  Charters will have less educated, experienced teachers instructing students on rote test taking.  Already there are massive cut backs in social studies, history, the arts - we have successfully Walmarted our students. The privileged will still have their academies and the "others" will have publicly funded warehouse educations.  Sad. And - all of this is being promoted as some massive improvement. The gullible public is taking this in - hook, line and sinker. By the time they discover their kids are rote learners, it will be too late.  Maybe it already is.  Critical thinking has been disappearing from the classroom as more and more testing and "equipment" is pushed on students.  Kindergartners now have "test anxiety."  Seriously?  The privileged will have thorough educations and the rest of us will have whatever is offered up to us electronically of via programming purchased wholesale.  Big bucks for someone's cronies as schools are required to purchase testing materials. America needs to take back public education - otherwise, it will only be for the same 2% getting those tax breaks.  Hmm ... anyone else see a connection here?

  •  Synergy is another word for rape (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DSWright, jabney, Neon Mama

    So is public-private partnerships.  I have witnessed these actions in California and have seen school funds funneled to private accounts, high-paid reform consultants brought in with the end result being the draining of  teacher morale and running off the best school principals, million dollar contracts given to officials whose credentials solely consisted of giving away public land to private parties while being in other public positions - all while  ignoring of the real needs of the students.

    It would be good nice to say that in our case this was all done by republican-leaning folks but unfortunately the damage was done by many who claimed allegiance to the democratic party.

    External authorities whose legitimacy rests on a record of making money should not dominate the debate on education.  Education about far more than making money.

    "The privatization of the country’s assets (such as health, education and water) for profit can only release destructive forces. You cannot play with the forces of life."
    - World Teacher Maitreya through an associate as reported by Share International

    •  Synergy (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DSWright, jabney

      The Democrats in Illinois are destroying what is left of public education.  Obama and Duncan have no idea what they are doing to dismantle public education - neither have had the public school "experience" yet feel credentialed to implement national policy. This destruction certainly is bipartisan.

      •  I doubt if the supposedly "intelligent" Obama does (0+ / 0-)

        not have any idea what he is doing to public ed. I think he is fully aware of what he is doing. He is doing what his corporate overlords want - the predator state ponying up public money for private profit.

        NYT reader comment (via Susan Ohanian) : Arne Duncan great example of peter Principle. Failed in Chicago; then promoted so he could repeat failure on national scale.

        by Funkygal on Mon Apr 18, 2011 at 09:03:45 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  The Right Wing Bloodsucking Scum Has (5+ / 0-)

    had their eyes on public education since Reagan.  They have had a long term plan to first discredit public schools and teachers with "A Nation At Risk" under Reagan and NCLB with Bush the Stupid.  Now the battle has moved to the states.  Christie is a Republican tool of big business who would like nothing better than to destroy the NJEA and then privatize education.  Wake up people, it's later than you think!

  •  My kids received an excellent education (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DSWright, JanL

    in NJ's public schools. However, I am glad that they have all graduated. I fear that the same opportunity will not be available to future students in NJ if we let the foxes guard the hen house. I agree with you--I am not sure whether this is just typical NJ cronyism or something far more sinister.

  •  I continually wonder why . . . (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    HansaGruber, jabney, Neon Mama

    "conservatives" want to destroy public education; one of America's great success's.

    America is powerful when there is good education and use of knowledge by all.  One thing sticks with me about the power of common education was when reading Dava Sobel's, Longitude, he mentions that at a time when only the upper classes in the British Navy could navigate (or were allowed to under penalty of death), common education among American seamen, along with Bowditch's Practical Navigation, provided America with a depth of strength superior to the English.

    Distrust of authority should be the first civic duty. - Norman Douglas

    by Fossil on Mon Apr 18, 2011 at 01:58:59 PM PDT

    •  It's ALL about the money. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JanL, Neon Mama

      Rethugs see $$ when they see a public school and they salivate all over each other fantasizing about how much could be in their coffers. They don't give a shit about anyone else, least of all children of classes less than them. They want to take the money away from teachers and students so they can own the UNIVERSE. I cannot stomach rethugs anymore and barely can be civil to those I work with. They are actively destroying democracy.

      "There must be more to life than having everything" -Maurice Sendak

      by lilypew on Mon Apr 18, 2011 at 02:57:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Good diary, but it feels like the crap is coming (4+ / 0-)

    from every direction now. The union busting, the dismantling of the schools, turning medicare into a voucher system and now the Gang of Six putting SS on the table. Next thing you know a governor of some state will dismiss a town's elected officials and putting a hand-picked dictator in charge.

  •  Great Diary (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jabney, Neon Mama, Zenara, DSWright, Bill W

    Thanks for catching us up on this topic. I have a theory that Christie is the most dangerous of the new crop of REPUB govs. He is G W Bush with a brain - what I mean by that is that everything he does is politically motivated (just like schrub), but he is not a dull instrument - he knows when to bluster and when to work quietly behind the scenes.

    If he had a GOP led statehouse in NJ we would be in real trouble.

    "War is sweet to those who do not fight" - Desiderius Erasmus (Ancient Aphorism)

    by Newspeak101 on Mon Apr 18, 2011 at 06:30:44 PM PDT

    •  "a GOP led statehouse" (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Amen to that.  There's a great clip out there, with Christie speaking to a friendly crowd, and he says the following:

      "If you give me a Republican legislature, you're not going to believe what's going to happen in New Jersey..."

      I'm hoping that quote will figure prominently in the Democrats' race to keep control of the legislature this year.

  •  Alias JEB Bush is as evil as his (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:


    Bu$hco and their dollar royals treat elections as what they intend --- hostile takeovers.   Their goal is to sell off our assets to cronies, bleed our pension funds dry,
    change the laws to make governors more like a war lord dictator than a civil servant.  

    Privatize to privateer.  We citizens are all just One Fodder Unit to be fed to their infinite greed.

    Is Bushco Bubba of Funeralgate fame still getting all the contracts so no one really knows where the bodies are buried?  Texas scandal first exposed by whistleblower.  Yet same repeatedly bad operators got NOLA contract, tsunami contract from Poppy Bush and Slick Willie, etc.

    From forced birth to bad burial -- they scheme to profit from every breath we peons work for.  They make money whether we educate, medicate, or incarcerate.  

    Sorry to rant so ----- I brushed my loose chad from my card voting against W.  I voted against his chubby little brother.  I hate his Silverado slickster brother selling cartoon cash COWS to schools under ALL Children Left Behind wrongly diverted funds.  

    Florida was double Bushed as their second steal it all state.  But nobody listened to those of us who screamed against their lies and thefts.  

      We must defend all under attack, or none will be left when they come for your state.

         PS -- Ask any republicant how much of that national debt they whine over --- is our SS trust fund money they borrowed -- and now don't want to repay?  How much privateer insurance or hospital stock they own?  

    Clawback from our corporate overlords for the roads, electric, trains, firefighters and educator infrastructure they used to make a profit on those few jobs they provided.  Our tax pennies funded the research and satellites they "do business" on.  Time for less whining and more infrastructure payback.

    De fund + de bunk = de EXIT--->>>>>

    by Neon Mama on Mon Apr 18, 2011 at 08:37:46 PM PDT

  •  Chris Christie : (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    “This is an incredibly special moment in American history, where you have Republicans in New Jersey agreeing with a Democratic president on how to get reform.”


    NYT reader comment (via Susan Ohanian) : Arne Duncan great example of peter Principle. Failed in Chicago; then promoted so he could repeat failure on national scale.

    by Funkygal on Mon Apr 18, 2011 at 09:06:59 PM PDT

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