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12 December 2011

Repudiation: Education Outsourcing

New Jersey is, sadly, known for corrupt politics.  When New Jersey Governor Christie appointed Chris Cerf as acting Commissioner of Education, allegations of outside private education interests surfaced quickly.  Some of the history was published in PolitickerNJ less than two months after Mr. Cerf was sworn into office.
The chief financial officer of Sangari Education and the brother of Acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf, Randy Cerf told he had no knowledge of Global Education Advisors, a company his brother founded, which undertook a $500,000 contract to examine the potential for charter school education in the City of Newark.
"Until I got your email, I had never heard of Global Ed Advisors nor have I been their CFO at any time," said Randy Cerf of Seattle in an email. "Nor do I have nor have I had any business relationship with my brother while he has served as acting  education commissioner." 
Prior to his appointment as acting education commissioner last month, Christopher Cerf was the chief operating officer of Sangari Global Education.
The connection to Newark may bring back memories to the Facebook grant to that city's school system.

The New Jersey Star-Ledger reports that there may be an effort afoot to not just have charter schools, but to outsource education to a foreign company, GEMS Education.
The idea has been promoted to school superintendents by one of their own, Mount Olive schools chief Larrie Reynolds. He says it could bring extra income both to cash-strapped school districts and to a private, Dubai-based company for which he works as a consultant.
Reynolds is a friend and former employee and business associate of acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf. Reynolds, who calls Cerf a "magnificent man," recently appeared with Cerf and Gov. Chris Christie on a panel to discuss school reform.
Financial kickbacks?
Under Reynolds’s plan, a company he says that he represents as a consultant — GEMS Education — would help a school district apply to the commissioner to become a "district of choice" under a newly expanded inter-district choice law, allowing it to admit students from other communities. The law gives the commissioner the power of approval.
GEMS Education, a company owned and funded by Dubai entrepreneur Sunny Varkey, would recruit outside students for the program, hire teachers privately for lower-than-contract salaries and provide supplies for a "pathways" program run independently of, but under contract to the district. The private company would split the additional state aid coming into the district as a result of its status as a choice district.
Aside from the political impropriety, there are huge problems with these sorts of programs.  The model under which this is created is a business model that takes into account every cost but does not account for the variability of human beings.  Students who are most likely to be shuttled into such programs tend to be those who are the most time-consuming for teachers and principals.  They are the students who are most in need of time and attention, most in need of additional support, most in need of variation of lessons attuned to them as individuals.

This is one of a myriad of plans that are advocated by those who are most interested in saving taxpayer dollars instead of in investing in our children.  Instead of bullying teachers, states should be investing in them and the schools.

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