Editor's Note: Darcie Cimarusti, founder of Speak Up Highland Park, writes a blog called "Mother Crusader" to exemplify some of the big education reform debate swirling around our state and our country. She says: "Never intended to become a parent advocate until I watched the great schools in my little town come under attack. The more I learned about what was happening the more I read. The more I read the more I saw how what is happening here is tied to towns across not only New Jersey, but the country. And now I'm in the thick of it, and I can't think of anything I'd rather be doing." You can read more of her blog at "Mother Crusader" here.
This is an excerpt from her latest blog: Is the suburban charter school battle Christie's Waterloo?
On Dec. 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?"
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."