Monday, December 26, 2011

Is the suburban charter school battle Christie's Waterloo?

With all of the holiday hubbub this segment almost escaped me. 

ON 12/22 WNYC's new Managing Editor for New Jersey Nancy Solomon and New Jersey native and WNYC investigative journalist Bob Hennelly participated in a discussion on the Brian Lehrer show called New Jersey Confirmation Battle.  It was an intelligent discussion of the issues regarding Senator Rice's block of Acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf's appointment.  At no time was Senator Rice called a conspiracy theorist.  Instead, Nancy Solomon detailed Cerf's long history of involvement with for-profit companies that contract with public school districts.  

Bob Hennelly pointed out that what Senator Rice is looking for is more transparency in the Newark schools.  Hennelly stated that Christie "escalated" the issue by refusing to appoint judges in Essex County Courts.  Hennelly made it very clear that Rice is merely holding back a title from Cerf.  Cerf has the full responsibility of the job.  Remaining the Acting Commissioner only takes away his ability to speak before the legislature - that's it.  However, Christie holding up judicial appointments creates real consequences in Newark.  Hennelly stated that Christie is just "one bad news cycle" away from real problems if a delayed divorce proceeding ends in some kind of violence...

There are two quotes from Nancy Solomon in this segment that need to be shouted from the rooftops.  One came as part of a discussion about who, other than Rice, is or isn't against Cerf's appointment.  The first caller, Bob from Mountainside, blamed the unions and the Democrats for the whole mess because Cerf is pro-charter and the Democrats are controlled by the unions, and the unions don't like Christie.  Hennelly made it clear that the issue is not nearly that clear cut politically.  Solomon countered and broke it down to the all too often unspoken apolitical issue at the heart of the matter:

"It's an ideological battle.  Do you want your public schools business done publicly or do you want private hedge fund managers donating money and making decisions?"

They then took a call from Nick in Cliffside Park who said that Christie has a "Scott Walker agenda in New Jersey."  He went on to say:

"When you put a guy in charge of public education whose total background is privatization, what the hell do you expect?"

To wrap up the segment Lehrer asked Nancy Solomon if politically these are winning issues for Christie or the democrats.  She responded with another gem:

"The charter school issue is starting to really heat up big time in the suburbs, and suburban parents are really upset about money going to charter schools.  They don’t want it, and money is going from the public budget for schools into charter schools and I think that could turn into Christie’s Waterloo."

Congrats on your new job Nancy Solomon.  Your analysis is exactly what New Jersey needs right now.  We're working hard to keep the heat on.  Please continue to help us do so.