Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Update: Jersey Jazzman: The Chris Cerf Story (pre-Jersey)

Jersey Jazzman: The Chris Cerf Story (pre-Jersey):

The Chris Cerf Story (pre-Jersey)

In January of 2011, I published a four-part series on ACTING Education Commissioner Chris Cerf's career prior to coming to New Jersey. It may well be the most comprehensive look at the man available.

Given that his long-awaited confirmation hearing is this Thursday, I'm posting the links to the story again here. You'll find links to all of the primary sources I used within the posts.

The Chris Cerf Story - Part I
Cerf's tenure at Edison Schools and the sweetheart deal he made to take the company private using funds from the Florida teachers pension.

The Chris Cerf Story - Part II
Cerf's years working under Joel Klein and Rupert Murdoch at the NYC Department of Education, including a heavily redacted ethics report into his conflict-of-interest violation.

The Chris Cerf Story - Part III
Cerf champions charter schools, and leads a "Truth Squad" that monitors Klein's and Bloomberg's critics.

The Chris Cerf Story - Summary
Chris Cerf's career has been all about the confluence of private and public interests in education.

More to come soon about the tenure of Chris Cerf in New Jersey.

The Problems With Chris Cerf

ACTING NJ Education Commissioner Chris Cerf is finally going to have his confirmation hearing this Thursday, well over a year after Chris Christie appointed him to the job. I've followed Cerf's career closely over this time, and I have some serious reservations about his appointment.

It boils down to three things:

1) Too often, Chris Cerf plays fast and loose with standards of ethics and transparency.

2) Too often, Chris Cerf has been an autocrat, accruing power over New Jersey's schools to himself.

3) Too often, Chris Cerf has twisted research and data to justify policies that will not serve New Jersey's children well.

I will break these three down in separate posts; for now, let me give just one brief example of each:

Cerf's Problems #1: Ethics and Transparency

As I wrote earlier, I see three problems with ACTING NJ Education Commissioner Cerf:

  1. He plays fast and loose with standards of ethics and transparency.
  2. He has accrued too much power to himself.
  3. He misrepresents research, data, and facts to push his policies.
Knowing that Cerf's long-awaited confirmation hearing is this Thursday, let's delve more deeply into this first problem:

I've already told the story of the shady stock deal from back when Cerf was running Edison schools; it still amazes me he was able to enrich himself on the backs of Florida teachers through their pensions. It's worth noting reports at the time talked about how saving Edison would line up with Jeb Bush's support of privatizing education:
With its contract up for renewal and under criticism, Liberty had an interest in pleasing Jeb Bush, who had promoted privatization and school vouchers (even though his programs have encountered legal problems, criminal investigations and a state investigation finding serious "lack of accountability"). How better to do that than save the flagship of school