Rice calls for more transparency on private donors

State Sen. Ronald Rice announced plans to propose legislation that would require private donations to state-controlled schools to be funneled through the Department of Education.

“If private philanthropists want to invest in the future and make substantial donations to public education in New Jersey, I’m fine with that,” said Rice, (D-28), Essex.  “However, we have to be aware that sometimes, these donations come with strings attached, or come from sources with less-than-stellar reputations.  New Jersey residents need to know where the money’s coming from, and what it’s intended for, before their school districts agree to the terms of the donation.”

The bill would create a fund within the DOE – dubbed the “Private Investment in Public Education Fund” – that would serve as a depository for all funds donated to school districts under partial or full state control. 

Any donations made to the district would be forwarded to the Commissioner of Education for deposit into the fund.  The school district would be required to post information about the donation on its website, including the name of the donor and the intended purpose of the donation.  In order to withdraw the funds from the account, the superintendent, with the approval of the district school board, would have to apply to the Commissioner of Education for withdrawal.

According to a release from Rice, the “recent donations to Newark public schools – including a much-publicized $100 million donation from Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg, a $3 million donation from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a teacher evaluation system, and funds intended for charter schools development that were channeled through a private consulting firm, Global Education Advisors, which was founded by Acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf before he was appointed to lead the State Department of Education – leave the public with more questions than answers.”

Rice is currently embroiled in a battle with members of his own party of Cerf’s nomination.  The Essex County senator has exercised senatorial courtesy over Cerf’s nomination as Commissioner of Education, blocking the Senate’s confirmation hearing.  Among Rice’s problems with Cerf is the acting commissioner’s involvement with Global Education Advisors. Rice has demanded that Cerf appear before the Joint Committee on the Public Schools, which Rice chairs.  Senate President Steve Sweeney has told Rice that protocol demands the first stop for a nominee is the Senate Judiciary Committee and any other committee appearances must come after he is approved there.

Rice calls for more transparency on private donors