Sen. Rice, whose district includes Newark, has for some time questioned the truth about Chris Cerf’s statements regarding his involvement in the controversial, secretive plan for school education in Newark. Initially Rice used the senatorial prerogative of blocking Cerf’s appearance before a Judiciary Committee meeting that would vote on whether or not to recommend the appointment to the full senate. Rice now says he is invoking his senatorial privilege no matter what Cerf does because Cerf misled him. Rice’s action makes sense for Newark and for New Jersey as a whole. Governor Christie should seek a new nominee for Commissioner of Education.
In a late February Acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf gave a revised account of his ties with Global Education Advisors (GEA), which prepared the secretive school education report for Newark. Cerf acknowledged he had been more involved than he first indicated. In fact GEA’s lead employee, Rajeev Bajaj, is also President of Sangari Global Education, for which Chris Cerf previously served as Chief Operating Officer. Cerf had used his home address to incorporate GEA, and he had contributed to the Booker campaign.
Furthermore GEA’s Newark consultancy gig was funded by the Broad Foundation with a grant of $500,000 to Newark. Cerf had not mentioned publicly his close ties with this foundation. While Cerf was Deputy Chancellor of NY City Schools the Broad Foundation awarded $2.5 million in grants to expand charter schools in the city. Cerf’s then boss Chancellor Joel Klein serves as Chair of the Board of Directors of the Broad Center, an educational arm of the foundation. In effect, secretively and behind the scene, Chris Cerf played a role in obtaining a grant for Newark to fund GEA, and he placed a colleague of his as the head of GEA. Not surprisingly such actions resulted in the type of report he might then approve later as Commissioner of Education – actions which raise questions of forthrightness, judgment and conflict of interest.
Such actions are not what one should accept from a person nominated to be a commissioner. Cerf’s approach did not benefit Newark and would not benefit the State of New Jersey. Congratulations to Ron Rice for his principled stand. More sadly our governor’s mismanagement of New Jersey education continues unabated.