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Corporate Charter Advocates Defend the Millionaires’ Tax Cut and Insider Contracts

This week has marked a new low for corporate charter advocates’ defense of draining tax money away from the neediest students and into the pockets of their already wealthy friends. In the case of New York, the policies that the New York Charter School Association supports could actually decrease financial resources for the charter schools they claim to support, since charter funding is based on the same district funding that Peter Murphy thinks deserves to be cut!

Over at the blog of the New York Charter School Association, Peter Murphy has the audacity to claim that since a “billion dollars doesn’t buy what it once did in New York,” the state’s teachers unions should end their call for Governor Cuomo to keep the millionaires’ tax in place to help offset the devastating education cuts that would occur if the state loses that tax revenue next year. Sorry, Mr. Murphy, but for most New Yorkers, a billion dollars (or $4 billion!) isn’t just some change you find under a rock:

On January 1, 2012, both rates drop back to 6.85 percent, resulting in a revenue loss to the state of about $1 billion in the current fiscal year, and $4 billion on a full-year basis.

One billion dollars doesn’t buy what it once did in New York, but the unions are overturning every rock they can find to finance more spending, and this revenue source is an obvious choice for them.

Over in New Jersey, a similar display of corporate hubris is being displayed by Chris Christie’s new state Education Commissioner, Chris Cerf. Some excellent investigative reporting by the Newark Star Ledger this week revealed that only a few months before he was appointed as Commissioner, Cerf founded an education consulting firm – which was promptly given a lucrative contract to do a study of the Newark school system, and just recommended that the state convert multiple district schools into charters. (Cerf used to be the President of for for-profit charter education company Edison Schools and was a deputy chancellor in the NYC DOE who advised Joel Klein on “Public-Private Strategy.”)

Cerf initially denied that he had any connection to the firm, even though it uses his home address as its mailing address:

He said he never did anything with the company. “I have no presence or association with it. I have never taken a nickel from it,” he said. “I never actually did anything with it, so I’m not in any way, shape or form related to it.”

By the next day, however, Cerf was forced to admit that he had stepped down from a leadership role in the firm only weeks before he was nominated as Commissioner this December – and where part of his job will now be to approve the recommendations made by his “former” firm.

Newark school board officials said it was clear to them that Cerf was involved more deeply in the company before his departure. Advisory Board Vice Chairwoman Barbara King said the board’s leadership only became aware of Global Education Advisors and their work in the district after that work had begun, and they had a sit-down meeting with Cerf and Rajeev Bajaj, who now runs the consulting firm.

As the working people in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Indiana push back against corporate-funded campaigns to strip them of their collective-bargaining rights, hopefully the citizens of New York and New Jersey are paying attention to how these same forces are trying to manipulate school policy and funding – and stop them before it goes any further.