Tag Archive: B4K

Cerf, Fulop, & Jersey City: What Went Down?

The Hudson Reporter is publishing more details about a “confidential” meeting between Jersey City councilman and mayoral candidate Stephen Fulop, members of the JC Board of Education, and ACTING NJ Education Commissioner Chris Cerf.

Some background: Jersey City schools are under partial state control. Two days ago, the Reporter published the contents of an email Fulop sent titled “Cerf meeting.” Among those invited to the meeting were two members of the board of education; two members-elect; Shelley Skinner, later to become Deputy Director of B4K, the lobbying group; and other private citizens. Not all of the members of the JCBOE are on the distribution list.

This news comes at a particularly interesting time: Cerf is scheduled for his long-awaited confirmation hearing this Thursday. Over the past month, the NJDOE has denied involvement in the appointment of the new superintendent, Marcia Lyles, even though she, like Cerf, is a graduate of the controversial Broad Superintendents Academy.

This new reporting suggests, however, that Cerf has been involved in the staffing of the superintendent position for a long time – as early as when the BOE was making the initial decision to replace former superintendent Charles Epps.

From The Hudson Reporter:

Steve Sweeney Knows Who Butters His Bread

You can say whatever you want about Steve Sweeney, but one thing is for sure: he ain’t stupid.

State Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), who started her political career as a hand-picked representative of the Essex County political machine built by Steve Adubato, established herself as a player in Trenton by shepherding a strong tenure reform across the line.

But it wasn’t just her search for consensus that got it done. In the view of Senate President Steve Sweeney, who knows a thing or two about the backroom push-and-pull, it wouldn’t have happened without David Tepper, the billionaire hedge fund manager and education reform advocate who pledged to protect legislators willing to defy the New Jersey Education Association.

“David was an enormous help,” Sweeney (D-Gloucester) told The Auditor. “He was an equalizer. The way I look at it, there can be great benefits when you have someone with resources trying to do the right thing for the right reasons.” [emphasis mine]

Now that’s how you treat a guy who has promised to throw tons of money around! Doesn’t matter that the NJEA signed off on the Ruiz bill. Doesn’t matter that, on substance, the union got just about everything it wanted. Doesn’t mater that the final bill is a far cry from what Tepper’s group, B4K, has been pushing.

What does matter is that Tepper and B4K are willing to throw plenty of money at the South Jersey Democratic machine. Last election cycle, they backed Democrats Troy Singleton and Gabby Mosquera for the Legislature, both allied with Sweeney and George Norcross. Undoubtedly, Sweeney is looking forward to more money flowing from the Tepper tap.

I’ve certainly been critical of B4K, but I can also see the practical politics of Sweeney’s stroking of Tepper; he is a potential source of campaign cash few could afford to ignore. I only hope Sweeney added the Obama campaign into his calculus. David Tepper is a big supporter of Mitt Romney. I can’t imagine the national Democrats are too pleased to see the highest-ranking elected Democrat in New Jersey showering praise on one of the Mittster’s bigger fundraisers.

And Tepper has supported other Republicans in statewide elections. Whether he becomes a consistent source of funds for the Norcross/Sweeney axis is an open question. But even I have to admit, it’s worth a bit of praise to keep that door open.

Sweeney On Tenure

NJ Senate President Steve Sweeney was on Brian Lehrer yesterday. While most of the discussion revolved around the budget and taxes, Lehrer did question Sweeney about tenure:

(9:40) LEHRER: What does tenure mean if you can then remove the teachers who you don’t think are doing a good job?

SWEENEY: Well, what happens is, tenure is after three years in the State of New Jersey… tenure, you had a lifetime job. You know, so if you… seven years, ten years into the job, you could almost, it was impossible almost to get rid of the teacher. Now with the evaluation processes that we’re going to have going forward, teachers aren’t performing as they should be, and they get bad evaluations, we can move to remove those teachers much more quickly.

LEHRER: So does that change tenure, or does that end tenure? Should we say that tenure is over in New Jersey?

SWEENEY: No, tenure still exists, but it’s been (garbled) and modernized. I would say, Brian, it’s been modernized. And honestly, everyone that’s involved gave. So I mean… I want to recognize the teachers unions gave. The governor gave. I gave. We all came and compromised on something that is really going to benefit our children in the long run and there’s a group, B4K, which is another group that’s advocating change, educational change. They did a phenomenal job. So, you know, the pros, the people supporting tenure, the people wanting to end tenure, everyone came together. And we really did a good job reforming it.

A few points:

Lehrer has been one of the few journalists who has really taken the time during this debate to question the premises of those who push for “reform.” I suspect his questions here are somewhat leaning, because he understands that tenure is not a lifetime job guarantee, and it never has been.

Christie: Slush Fund for Me, Not For Thee

If you’ve been trolling around the web and you live in Jersey, you’ve probably seen this ridiculous video about how Chris Christie and unnamed “reformers” are “getting the job done.”

FactCheck.org pretty much skewers the entire ad: Christie’s job creation record sucks, he didn’t put more money into schools, and the notion he and the Christiecrats “saved” pensions is laughable on its face. Bill Orr has a great summary of how phony Christie’s “Jersey Comeback” truly is; NJ Senator Loretta Weinberg also exposes this myth.

So we know this is all a crock; the question is, “Who is paying for this propaganda?”

This is the latest in a series of ad buys paid for by the Committee for Our Children’s Future. Blue Jersey has documented the personal connections Christie has to the group through his alma mater, the University of Delaware. What we don’t know, however, is who exactly has funded this campaign. As a 501(c)(4), CCF is under no obligation to tell anyone where its funds come from.

Which makes this comparison from Christie all the more bizarre:

“If they are out there helping me, I say thank you very much, because these unions have spent tens of millions of dollars attacking me since I’ve become governor,” Christie said in a news conference in September. “But I have nothing to do with the group. I don’t raise money for them.”

This isn’t the first time Christie has tried to hide behind the unions’ ads:

The New Jersey Education Association’s use of a “$130 million slush fund” – the amount the state’s largest teachers union collects annually in dues – to “beat on the people who dare to speak out for children,” however, is “immoral,” Christie told a rapt audience of about 400.

“When you’re governor and you work in the school yard called Trenton, and you see a bunch of people laying on the ground bloodied and one guy standing against the fence with a smug smile on his face, you know that’s the bully,” Christie said, speaking about the union leadership.

“You know what you do? You walk up to him with a big smile on your face and you punch him first,” Christie said, earning a roar of applause.

Aside from the sociopathic language Christie is using here, the comparison simply doesn’t hold up. NJEA doesn’t spend all of its member dues on ads – duh. Admittedly, it did spend a hefty $11 million in the last year, but CCF spent about $5 million. And NJEA doesn’t have to merely fight back against Christie; the governor gets plenty of free ads in the form of Star-Ledger editorials among other places.

Further, CCF isn’t the only group spending big bucks to attack unions:

In New Jersey, the state affiliate of StudentsFirst can count on nearly unlimited support from hedge-fund managers David Tepper and Alan Fournier, the executive director said. Tepper and Fournier are also substantial donors to the PAC backing Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Both men declined to comment.

“There is no budget,” said the state director, Derrell Bradford. “They are willing to spend whatever it takes.” [emphasis mine]

But here’s the difference: we know exactly where the ad money the NJEA spends is coming from – the teachers they represent. We have no idea who exactly is funding the nakedly political ads to pump up the governor. Why is this important?

I’ve written about the connections between Bradford’s B4K, Michelle Rhee’s Students First, Rupert Murdoch, and NJ politics before:

Steven Brill has reported that Rupert Murdoch funds Rhee’s group; Rhee has partnered with B4K. B4K funds ads that shill for Christie among others. And Murdoch’s Wireless Generation is an education services provider that looks to be digging its claws into New Jersey.

The taxpayers of New Jersey know that teachers fund the NJEA ads; they can make up their own minds as to whether those ads are self-seving. But those same taxpayers have no way of knowing whether the people who fund CCF or B4K have their own self-serving motivations for supporting Chris Christie.

When Chris Christie rails against public worker unions for taking out ads that question his policies, yet refuses to call on lobbying groups like CCF and B4K to disclose their finances, he is engaging in hypocrisy of the highest order.

I know; you’re just shocked…

Education Reform: For Profit, Not For Progress

Before the end of the year Governor Christie wants the legislature to pass the remainder of his property tax ‘tool kit’ including his education ‘reform’ agenda. And the fate of one of the nation’s best public education systems and thousands of its students hang in the balance.

Out of over twenty four hundred schools in this state, about two hundred are not doing a good enough job educating their students. These schools are mostly in the former Abbott districts, some of the poorest cities in this country, where the Black unemployment rate is almost double the state average, and one in five children live in poverty.

The governor and Acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf, along with their education advisors, Better Education for Kids (B4K) and Excellent Education for Everyone (E3), do not address this almost criminal disparity of wealth despite the fact that one of the DOE's earlier Abbott district reports cites poverty as a major roadblock to student achievement:


Ed Reform 101: Summary Edition

Ed Reform 101So. What have we learned?

Standardized testing is generally bad for students, expensive, unreliable and biased. It is a terrible tool for evaluating teacher effectiveness. No parent would ever want their child’s entire academic identity to be boiled down to one single test on one single day. Who even likes these tests? Not the administrators. Not the teachers. Not the students. But despite that, stacks of bubble sheets, in all of their irrelevance, should be used for making staff decisions in our schools? Even though the folks who design the tests explicitly say that they should not be used for that purpose? And what about those who teach art, music or physical education? The question itself is arbitrary and absurd: “What percentage of teacher evaluation should be based on standardized test scores?” The clear answer for any serious educator or statistician is “zero.”

B4K Ad Fail

B4K ad:

People who actually know stuff about schools:

Still, most agreed that the small numbers of tenure charges filed with the state are really only a fraction of the cases of low-performing teachers for whom the formal filing is a last resort, a vast majority of them eased out of the classroom as the complaints mount.

‘You don’t see these statistics, but I would say that hundreds of teachers who receive the first tenure charges resign,” said Eugene Liss, general counsel to the Newark Teachers Union. “Maybe the case didn’t go all the way to Trenton, but many who sit with us, they end up leaving the profession.”

Newark has a system in which teachers receiving unsatisfactory ratings are required to undergo additional training through Seton Hall University. Last year, it was 90 teachers, all but 12 of whom returned to the classroom, he said. Those 12 all resigned, none by tenure charges. [emphasis mine]

Add to this the fact that 40% of new teachers never earn tenure after the standard three years, and you can see that this ad is a steaming load of dung.

Oh, and it’s 113k teachers. But I have to admit: 12.5% is a better margin of error than using test scores to evaluate teachers (which has a 35% error rate).

Backpacks For Mail Lists?

Cross-posted from Jersey Jazzman

B4K, Derrell Badford’s corporate-education “reform” outfit here in Jersey, is giving away backpacks to kids in cities throughout the Garden State.

This is a GOOD thing, and I applaud the program. Times are tough and many families could use help.

I just don’t understand why the families have to pre-register and leave their address, phone number, and email address. OK, I know you want to distribute them fairly, but is it really necessary to collect this info for 45,000 children and their families? Especially since there is no guarantee – at least, none that I found – that this information will not be sold or shared with any other group or individual?

If I were cynical, I might even think this was a ploy to build a database to be used for political and other purposes…

I’m shocked! Shocked to be getting corporate-education “reform” spam!

Hey, all you have to do, Derrell, is assure us that you aren’t building a database, and I’ll apologize for thinking the worst.