Cerf Addresses State Board of Education

By David Cruz

Jersey City Schools grabbed headlines for moving a step closer to regaining local control after 26 years of state control. But the state Board of Education meeting also heard from Newark’s new state-appointed superintendent of schools. Chris Cerf told them he’s making progress.
David Cruz was there.

Cerf is the successor to Cami Anderson, who left in July. As Superintendent, he’s required to make monthly meetings at the Board of Education and give them an update report. “It was a 35 minute presentation,” Cruz said. “There was a lot of talk about charter schools and about the state budget, swipes at Dale Russakoff, who is the author of “The Prize“, which was very critical of the $100 million Facebook money and how that was used by the Board of Ed.”

Cerf recounted a meeting he had with Randi Weingarten, who is the President of the American Federation of Teachers, which is the national union and he said that he wanted to make that $100 million from Facebook go to traditional Newark public schools. Cerf says that they agreed but, “Within a matter of ten weeks after that, she and others were standing outside on the streets with a bullhorn yelling that they’re trying to convert everything to the charter schools. But the reality is, and everybody knew this, that this was not a conspiracy to charterize the district. This was in fact an effort to build a portfolio of great public schools, predominately traditional public schools.”

However, it was the impact on the budget that the charter schools are having that’s very interesting, according to Cruz.

“There is a problem here in the budget and it needs to be addressed. It needs to be addressed by the legislature next year in the funding formula, specifically the allocation to charter schools. As you know, I have a belief that I don’t care how a school comes into being as long as it’s a good school, but by flat lining year to year to year the revenues given to a district, that in combination with the charter school funding formula is hitting the district budget disproportionately and there’s a way to fix that with a very simple budget fix, but we can’t just turn the other way,” Cerf said.

“This is something that left some people scratching their heads,” Cruz said. “The champion of charter schools, the architect of the One Newark plan, which relied heavily on the expansion of charter schools, talking about how charter schools are taking money away from traditional public schools. Cruz spoke today to the union rep and he said that as far as Cerf goes, he’s sort of a light version of Cami Anderson. “Maybe not as abrasive, but certainly continuing the same policies,” Cruz said.