One of the major initiatives of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) has been pushing for is the expansion of for-profit and privately managed schools in K-12 education. As part of this push, Christie has been championing a school voucher expansion that would cost the state $825 million to funnel tax dollars to private schools, while at the same time slashing spending for public education, cutting $820 million last year alone.
Last week, Christie announced a new “public-private school pilot program” which would allow “local school boards [to] hand control of some so-called ‘transformation schools’ to education management organizations, possibly including for-profit firms.” Christie designed the new program with Acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf, the “former president of the world’s largest for-profit operator of public schools, Edison Schools Inc.”
The New Jersey Star-Ledger notes that Christie actually has a very strong financial tie to Cerf’s for-profit company. The private law firm at which Christie worked as a lobbyist between 1999 and 2001 actually lobbied New Jersey’s government on behalf of Edison Schools:
From 1999 to 2001, Christie was a registered lobbyist at a law firm that lobbied New Jersey government on behalf of Edison Schools, according to filings with the state Election Law Enforcement Commission. While the firm was representing the multinational education company, Chris Cerf was its general counsel.
The firm, Dughi, Hewit and Palatucci, also represented Mosaica Education, a for-profit charter school operator, and the University of Phoenix, a for-profit online university. At the time, the firm listed two lobbyists, Christie and William Palatucci, a longtime political ally of the governor who is a named partner in the firm.
“Many people support their public schools and they are reacting with anger to the idea they should be privatized,” said state Sen. Dick Codey (D), in response to Christie’s proposed education policies. (HT: BlueJersey)