Who is Chris Cerf and why do the Feds want him kept away from Newark students?

NJEdDiagramChris Cerf planned to replace Cami Anderson as Newark Public Schools’ state-appointed superintendent, but following his attempted return to New Jersey schools the Feds are scrutinizing his record, and they aren’t pleased with him. Let’s take a look at who this man is:

Mark Weber writes

In many ways, Cerf is the prototypical education “reformer”: he never taught in a public school, never earned a degree in education, and never ran a school building. More accurately, perhaps, Cerf is the prototype of a new sort of reformer, one who leaves a groundswell of resistance in his wake.

What did Cerf accomplish in New Jersey in his years as Department of Education Commissioner?
For starters, Mark tells how Cerf created the apartheid school system that prevails in New Jersey today.

Segregated and apartheid schools are now a defining feature of New Jersey. A scathing report from the Institute on Education Law and Policy at Rutgers-Newark finds that many of New Jersey’s schools have moved beyond “segregated” status. They are, in effect, apartheid schools, where children of color have little or no interaction with white students. This intense segregation extends to poverty status as well … And we know that student poverty is heavily correlated to proficiency

NJEA President Wendell Steinhauer voiced concerns over Cerf leaving his DOE post last year to go work for a company that on Cerf’s watch won millions of dollars of New Jersey school contracts:

…we are deeply concerned that Commissioner Cerf is leaving his position to become CEO of Amplify Insight. In Cerf’s new position, he and his company will profit from selling assessment products and services to public schools struggling to adapt to exactly the kind of misguided mandates that Cerf’s Department of Education is currently imposing on New Jersey’s schools.

Bob Braun shares reasons why neither Christie nor his staff have fallen under legal scrutiny for the terrible things they’ve done to public education:

No competent investigatory agency has looked into Cerf’s private dealings before, while, and after he was commissioner. Christie controls the state attorney general’s office. The US Attorney’s office is now run by Paul Fishman, a Casper Milquetoast of a prosecutor when it comes to Christie. The US Department of Education still has six pending complaints sitting before it brought by Newark residents and officials. There is never any rush when the children of Newark are the ones who need help.

In the same shininingly clear exposition, Bob lays out what the crux of the problem with Cerf is.

Anderson and Cerf stole (quality public education) from the children of the city. The children did not get what was, by law, rightfully theirs … They decided on their own—in contravention of state and federal law, regulation, and policy – to give Anderson a free hand to do whatever she wanted to do to “help” the failing Newark schools. That meant hiring millions of dollars worth of consultants, including former associates of Anderson who had gone into the private sector. It meant closing schools and handing them over to privately operated charters—including one Cerf once served as a trustee. Firing good teachers. Hiring incompetent, inexperienced administrators…

Cerf and Anderson ran the Newark schools according to dictates of their own ambitions and ideology and they ran those schools into the ground.

…just a few days ago, the federal government accused Cerf of evading state and federal law and regulations in a way that enhanced the suffering of Newark’s children.

Which is the reason, Bob says, that the Feds want Cerf kept away from Newark students.

A big bonus in Bob’s article is that he explains the various programs set up to monitor and control New Jersey education and shows the relationship between them, in the clearest way I’ve seen yet. It’s been really hard to understand what the programs are and how they work. Bob’s breakdown into regional, state and federal designations along with a succinct explanation of what each program is intended to do, helps me understand much better.

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