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Est. April 5, 2002
October 15, 2015 - Issue 625

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Chris Cerf’s
New Jersey Education
Gangster Allies
In National School
Privatization Violence
Part 2

"These education gangsters have wrought
tremendous damage on school children of
color they have claimed to love and to nurture."

Chris Cerf, newly appointed superintendent of the Newark Public Schools, has been a long-term servant of the Cartel of right-leaning corporate and foundation CEOs and Wall Street hedge fund managers.  However, he is part of a network of education gangsters across the nation who work to privatize public education in low-wealth and middle-class school districts.  Their central connection is to Eli Broad and his Broad Superintendent’s Academy (BSA) where they have been trained in a model that views K-12 public education like a business and uses it as a profit center.  Eli Broad, a billionaire corporate mogul and the Cartel’s education minister, promotes a mantra to turn public education into his private fiefdom.  He and Cartel billionaires, the Koch Bros., Bill Gates, Suzy Walton, Betsey DeVos, etc., have combined their financial resources to create a multi-racial and gender diverse gang of educational privatization mercenaries to march across America with the primary goal of moving public education dollars into private sector hands.  Their destruction and devastation of public education’s infrastructure has left students, teachers, and public education stakeholders in a lurch.

Funding and/or creating a vast inter-connected network of think tanks, grassroots activists, advocacy groups, political Super PACs, and a bipartisan coalition of elected officials, the Cartel has made significant strides in its violent assault on public education: demonizing and terminating teachers via evaluation mechanisms that are not based on sound educational research; placing novice, so-called teachers in at-risk schools with limited preparation and no certification, many without four-year college or university degrees; reducing resources for students in economically distressed urban and rural school districts where students of color are the majority or near majority; forcing students to attend classes in dilapidated and physically unhealthy school buildings; and hiring administrators who have no background in managing teachers or school districts.  Collectively, these tactics constitute ongoing forms of education violence.  Moreover, there has been a systematic dismissal of African American and Hispanic teachers who are disproportionately replaced by young, mostly white Teach for America (TFA) teachers with five weeks of training. 

In addition, numerous Cartel disciples, with Cartel influence, have been appointed superintendents in large school districts where they have seized opportunities to enrich themselves and their friends on the backs of poor students of color.  Chris Cerf cooperates with them through the vast Broad and Cartel system where they rape and plunder school districts primarily populated by students of color.  The perpetrators of these education crimes are minority and majority male and female educational leaders alike.

On October 13, 2015, Dr. Barbara Byrd-Bennett, a Cartel and Broad devotee, who served as superintendent of the cash-strapped Chicago Public Schools (CPS) from 2012-2015, pleaded guilty in federal court to wire fraud for awarding more than $23 million in no-bid contracts to her previous employer and devising a scheme where she would receive a ten percent kickback from the contracts worth more than $2 million.  In an email exchange with her co-conspirator, Byrd-Bennett even implied she needed cash because she had "…tuition to pay and casinos to visit," according to the charges.  She was also given a $254,000 bonus, via a trust fund set up for her twin grandsons, for her efforts in arranging the contracts, provided tickets to sporting events, and given funding for a holiday party she hosted for CPS staff.  In Byrd-Bennett’s deal with federal prosecutors, she accepted a recommended sentence of 71/2 years instead of the 11-14 years the charge mandated under federal sentencing guidelines.  She apologized to the students saying that “I am terribly sorry...They deserve much more, much more than I gave to them" (an understatement).

Byrd Bennett Is now being investigated for taking kickbacks from a contract she gave to another Cartel acolyte, Dr. Robert Bobb, former head of the Detroit Educational Authority (DEA) who employed her in Detroit as chief academic auditor.  The disturbing aspect of this educational violence is that it is being perpetrated by administrators of color on students of color.  Thus, they joined Cerf in creating a national gangster education group.  Elsewhere, the late Beverly Hall, deceased superintendent of the Atlanta Public Schools (APS) was indicted for setting up a testing improvement scam from which she earned nearly $500,000 in bonuses before it collapsed on her and two dozen of her subordinates (Hall died before she could stand trial).  Prior to that revelation, the late Dr. Arlene Ackerman, former superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia (SDP), was being probed for a similar testing charade (although no charges were filed) and driving the district budget into a deficit.  When she resigned, the School Reform Commission (SRC), which oversees the SDP, held up her $900,000 payout.  After the intervention of the Cartel, which directed Ackerman to send out a detailed email to all of her educational associates endorsing charter and voucher schools as being the solution to the educational challenges facing low-income students of color, the payout was released.  Her communique’ caused some concern among her colleagues in the National Alliance of Black School Educators (NABSE), the largest group of professional African American educators in America where she had been a leader for thirty years.  This was the assemblage of teachers and administrators that Eli Broad and the Cartel wanted to embrace their privatization agenda for public education as NABSE members overwhelmingly work in the districts the Cartel is targeting.

These education gangsters have wrought tremendous damage on school children of color they have claimed to love and to nurture.  The Cartel’s insistence on a largely non-regulated K-12 education environment invites educational violence and gangster behavior to take root.  But what is interesting is that the Cartel adherents of color are a high percentage of those being indicted and going to jail.  Minority administrators refuse to acknowledge that they will be more closely scrutinized when they are in charge of large budgets in the public and private sectors.  But their individual greed, like that of their majority counterparts, blinds them to that reality.  The late Dr. Kenneth Clark, a key architect of the 1954 Brown Decision, noted in a 1984 essay in Daedalus that “One of the most interesting things that has happened is that the black community of this country, for the first time in history, has come to control a large number of public educational systems, and is doing nothing with them.”  Three decades later, Dr. Clark’s observations have proven to be prescient in that superintendents of color in large and small school districts throughout the nation have had modest success, at best, in elevating educational outcomes for students of color and oftentimes have succumbed to personal greed at the expense of these same students with whom they share racial affinity. Columnist, Dr. Walter C. Farrell, Jr., PhD, MSPH, is a Fellow of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado-Boulder and has written widely on vouchers, charter schools, and public school privatization. He has appeared on the Today Show with Matt Lauer and National Public Radio’s The Connection to discuss public school privatization, and he has lectured to parent, teacher, and union groups throughout the nation. Contact Dr. Farrell. 

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