Education Model For America Also No Prize (Part 1)

That did not work out but Chris Christie had a second model he wanted for America having to do with education reform in Newark which, according to Dale Russakoff in ‘The Prize’ also had its problems.

Notable excerpts from the first half of the book follow:

[Cory Booker] moved into low-income housing in an area of the Central Ward that was riddled with drugs and crime, organizing tenants to take on slumlords and growing close to a number of community activists. With their support, he ran for city council the next year, arguing that government was part of the problem – city hall looked the other way when slumlords gave money to the right politicians……Booker raised more than $140,000, an unheard-of sum at the time for a Newark council race. (pages 10-11)

The [2002 Booker mayoral] campaign inspired [Ravenel Boykin] Curry [IV], Whitney Tilson, Charles Ledley, and John Petry, all hedge fund managers enriched by the late-1990s boom on Wall Street, to seek out and support more Democrats who embraced charter schools and opposed the influence of teachers’ unions on the party. They ultimately formed a political action committee, Democrats for Education Reform, with Booker as one of their star fundraisers. The group’s beneficiaries would come to include the 2004 U.S. Senate candidate from Illinois, Barack Obama. (page 13)

An Italian American political machine, which became dominant in the early 1960s, displacing Irish bosses, tightly controlled city hall and the schools, along with patronage jobs, contracts, and – it was well known – lucrative kickbacks from organized crime. Former U.S. representative Hugh Addonizio, the mayor at the time, famously explained his motivation for leaving the prestige of Congress to run such an impoverished city: “There’s no money in Washington, but you can make a million bucks as mayor of Newark.” (page 17-8)

In emails and documents Booker and [Mark] Zuckerberg sent back and forth after their talks in Sun Valley, their stated goal was not simply to repair education in Newark but to develop a model for saving it in all of urban America – and to do it in five years. (page 27)

[First choice for Newark schools chief John] King had questions about a five-year plan overseen by politicians who were likely to seek higher office. (page 30)

They envied the charters’ freedom to hire the best teachers and to set their schedules based on student needs – unconstrained by union contracts, tenure law, and the district bureaucracy. (page 46

One of the cruel ironies of Newark’s schools was that throughout their long decline, the district often appeared on paper to be in perfect compliance with all requirements. (page 48)

Elementary education boiled down to this: children learn to read by third grade; they read to learn from then on. (page 53)

Democracy favored unions and powerful political bosses, whose loyalists tended to dominate turnout in school board elections and whose candidates often fought harder for adult jobs than for children’s education. Only in districts run by reform-friendly mayors or governors rather than school boards – such as New Orleans, Washington, New York, and now Newark – did officials have a free hand to impose politically unpopular changes. (page 56)

Despite Booker’s public promises of “bottom-up” reform led by the people of Newark, he quietly hired a team of education consultants – none from Newark – soon after the Oprah announcement, to create a “fact base” of the district’s needs and to lay the groundwork for the changes he and Zuckerberg had agreed on over the summer…..With no public money involved, no public notice was legally required, and as with [Bradley] Tusk’s hiring, non was given. (page 64)

Almost all philanthropy is by definition undemocratic, its priorities set by wealthy donors and boards of trustees, who by extension can shape the direction of public policy in faraway communities. (page 65)

The experts being mustered – men and women who started out with Klein or Teach for America or McKinsey’s education division and now were consultants to charter networks, school districts, state departments of education, and venture philanthropists, and many others – were representative of what Dominique Lee of BRICK  Avon called the “school failure industry.” They gravitated to districts rich in venture philanthropy or in Obama administration grants for failing schools, including New York’s under Klein, Washington’s under Rhee, and now Newark’s under Booker and [Christopher] Cerf….The going rate for consultants in Newark and elsewhere on the East Coast was $1,000 a day, and their pay comprised more than $20 million of the $200 million in philanthropy spent or committed in Newark. (page 71)

But in a communications age when even local news traveled across the globe in an instant, what happened in Newark stayed in Newark – unless Booker tweeted it. Flooding the media universe with his tales of heroism and hope – he posted them on Facebook and Twitter, recounted them on televisions talk shows, recycled them in speeches delivered around the country – he effectively washed away downbeat news. Outside Newark, no matter where people looked, they found only the narrative according to Booker. (page 88)

[Ras Baraka] cast Booker, Christie, and Zuckerberg as part of a monied conspiracy to seize control of the district’s $1 billion budget, its prize. (page 90)

It was becoming clear that Christie’s purported omnipotence over the Newark schools was not exactly as advertised. One of the consultants on the ground described how the realization dawned on him: “The mayor seemed indecisive on the superintendent search, so I thought, ‘Why not go straight to the governor, since he’s not afraid to pull the trigger?’ But then it turns out [Steve] Adubato [Sr.] pulls the governor’s trigger. Maybe we should’ve just cut the deal with him.” (page 99)

Although Booker, Christie, and Cerf were emphatic about the need to impose accountability on a notoriously unaccountable bureaucracy, it was becoming apparent that no one of them was ultimately accountable for making it happen. (page 100)

19 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Anonymous on January 1, 2016 at 8:06 pm

    NJ lacks an understanding of the term “accountability” and its relationship to governing at the local, county and state level. There needs to be an aggressive campaign to infuse ethics and accountability in NJ government at every level.


    • Posted by denis Bouchard . on January 2, 2016 at 7:10 am

      I will cut and paste this and will repost in 2026 ,and it will be as poignant then as it is now …and as it was in 1986,1996 and 2006


      • Posted by Tough Love on January 2, 2016 at 1:21 pm

        NJ’s Public Sector pension & benefits will look a LOT different (i.e., LOWER) in 2026.


        • Posted by Anonymous on January 2, 2016 at 3:43 pm

          Trust, the pensions will not look as haggardly as you TL in 2026.


          • Posted by Sean on January 2, 2016 at 5:50 pm

            Translation: “I have no argument to stand on, TL, so I have to do the only thing I know how.”

            I think Uncle Ben said it best: “It is better for everyone to THINK you are stupid, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

          • Posted by Anonymous on January 2, 2016 at 6:54 pm

            What we know about you is you are mean and you believe your constant rants are being read by CC, The reality is there is a workable solution to the pension crisis. The second point is our Governor, formerly from NJ, splits his time between NH and Iowa in pursuit of another government job, at the expense of his present government job. He’s distracted and the state house staff wouldn’t dare make a move in his absence. So you should find another distraction until “the boss” returns to his office under the dome.

          • Posted by Tough Love on January 2, 2016 at 10:18 pm

            Anon, Do you realize that you are replying to yourself ?

          • Posted by Anonymous on January 2, 2016 at 11:08 pm

            Still the idiot TL, different ANNON, different device, different IP address and replying to your freaking twin Sean. Your both full of Chicago BullS(hit)!

          • Posted by Tough Love on January 3, 2016 at 12:04 am

            Oh ….. angry little man.

  2. Posted by Anonymous on January 2, 2016 at 11:11 pm

    Seriously, the response is after your comment, sorta like a ongoing conversation, a spinoff from the original post.


    • Posted by Tough Love on January 3, 2016 at 12:09 am

      Ok, so getting back to the CONTENT of that post ….

      Quoting ……..”The reality is there is a workable solution to the pension crisis.”

      Beyond …”make the friggen payments” … exactly WHAT is your …”workable solution” ?


      • Posted by Anonymous on January 3, 2016 at 11:14 am

        Turning the pensions over to private insurers to provide group-based annuities, NJ presently has contracts with 6 companies for the NJABP. I moved from PERS in the late 80’s to NJABP no problem, immediate vesting, PERS monies frozen to contributions, invested in traditional annuity, exclusive benefit for annuity and. beneficiaries, State of NJ can’t borrow so much more, it’s real, many participants, the program has been in existence for decades under the NJ Division of Pensions and Benefits. Sounds far more positive then that actuary fire and brimstone shooting from your pen unlimited.


        • Posted by Tough Love on January 3, 2016 at 12:03 pm

          If you understood the assumptions made by Insurance Companies (that issue such annuities) you would realize how unworkable your suggestion is.

          In fact, EVEN IF these was ZERO under-funding your proposal is still unworkable. Follow along ….

          Right now NJ uses a 7.9% interest assumption in the calculation of the amount needed to fund pension Plan promises (the ARC). EVERYONE (with any financial acumen) would consider that an extremely AGGRESSIVE assumption. To the contrary, Annuity writers set CONSERVATIVE (not aggressive) assumptions so that they don’t lose money if actual experience turns out worse than assumed experience (i.e., THEY don’t have a 3-rd party sucker ….. e.g., the Taxpayers ….. upon whom they call to make up for losses). Instead of 7.9%, they would certainly be using an assumption on the UNDER side of 4%, and doing so would require at least 50% MORE in incoming contributions to fund the SAME level of pension promises. Where would that money come from, noting that we can’t even afford the current level of promises under the 7.9% assumption?

          Moving on …..

          Right now using GABS68 figures, for all of NJ’s Public Sector Plans combined there are Plan Assets totaling $83,479,143,450 and Plan Liabilities totaling $196,602,944,249, giving an overall funding ratio of 42.46%, and under-funding of $113,123,800,799.

          THAT HUGE under-funding is NJ’s problem (the Taxpayers or the workers/retirees depending on your view as to how this will all shake out over time) NOT the Annuity writer. Passing along pension promises from the State/Localities to an Annuity writer in no way eliminates that shortfall.

          NO matter how this all shakes out, to provide all promised pensions as CURRENTLY structured will take a HUGE amount of money ….. that almost nobody that understand finances thinks is possible.


          • Posted by dentss dunnigan on January 3, 2016 at 4:24 pm

            Thanks for putting this problem out in simple terms for all to understand …..

          • Posted by Anonymous on January 3, 2016 at 6:40 pm

            Spare me all that gobbledygook, if NJ employees transferring to the state sponsored define contribution program presented a unmanageable issue to the six contracted providers the opportunity wouldn’t have been offered for decades and continue to be an option. The annuities/other investment based insurance and investment product grow and experience compound interest. So again, your rants have no real bearing in this matter.

          • Posted by Tough Love on January 3, 2016 at 10:55 pm

            Quoting Anon …. “Spare me all that gobbledygook…”

            Please tell me WHICH part of my above comment is …”gobbledygook”
            and be specific, so that we can debate it.

            While I do not know the specifics of the NJABP, having been in this industry for a LONG time, I can assure you that all insurance/annuity products are priced conservatively, and pulling out of depths of NJ’s current financial predicament via shifting more participants to the NJABP under Insurance/Annuity products is a mathematical IMPOSSIBILITY without cutting the promised pension benefit level by AT LEAST 50%.

          • Posted by Anonymous on January 4, 2016 at 12:03 am

            Wrong again TL, your assumptions about this option is totally incorrect. The NJABP is guaranteed income, numerous investment and payout, including lifetime income, options both fixed and variable, all provided by long established investment and insurance providers. The choice whether to convert and the amount applied rests with the employee. News flash decades, many former members of NJABP. Is there water in the bucket, I feel a melting in the air.

          • Posted by Tough Love on January 4, 2016 at 12:32 am

            Anon, And WHERE in that last comment was the “gobbledygook” you spoke of ?

            And where did I make ANY “assumptions” about the NJABP option?

  3. As JavaGold would say – “haircuts comin’, get ready!!”


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