A consultant who was connected to Wireless Generation, the consulting company connected to the failed federal Race to the Top application, will be paid through private funds to run acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf’s transition to full time.
William Cox, owner of consulting firm DSA Capital, could be paid as much as $20,000 a month.
Cerf said the money will come from a Los Angeles-based philanthropy group called the Broad Foundations.
The revelation came after a question was posed by Assemblywoman Joan Quigley of Jersey City at Tuesday’s Assembly Budget Committee hearing.
Cerf said he will work on a contractual basis and will not be considered a full-time employee.
“He is a very part-time adviser,” Cerf said following the budget hearing.
Cox served as a senior adviser of Wireless Generation, an education technology company whose products are used in school districts seeking expansive reforms. Last year, Wireless Generation was a player in the very public drama that played out over the state’s failed Race to the Top federal grant application. The consultant was paid nearly $500,000 to aid in the completion of two rounds of applications.
A clerical error on the part of former Education Chief Bret Schundler led to the application’s failure. Schundler was eventually fired and Wireless Generation was subpoenaed to appear before a senate committee investigating the failed application. The attorney general agreed to review the consultant’s role in the process, but it’s unclear what if any investigation was conducted. Cox was reportedly not involved with the Race to the Top appplication.
This is not the first time Cerf has faced scrutiny since his nomination as acting commissioner.
Earlier, it was revealed that he helped incorporate a consulting firm, Global Education Advisors, that later recommended that charter schools supplant some of Newark’s poor-performing schools.
Cerf said that he had nothing to do with that consultant’s review of the Newark schools, and had no further involvement with Global Education Advisors. Later, the story changed as Cerf said he had done some preliminary work but had received no compensation for his services.
Cerf’s appointment as permanent commissioner has been entangled in politics, as Sen. Ron Rice, (D-28), Newark, has used senatorial courtesy to hold up his nomination. Rice has asked for Cerf to appear before the Joint Commitee on Public Schools, which the senator from Newark chairs, before he appears before the Judiciary Committee.
But senate Demcorats have told Rice that Cerf must first appear before Judiciary for his consent hearing as is the custom in the upper chamber.
Christie has said Cerf will serve his entire tenure as acting commissioner if need be and has called on Demcorats to solve the intra-party squabbling that led to Rice’s move.
On its web site, Broad Foundations states that its missions include “Transforming K-12 urban public education through better governance, management, labor relations and competition.”
The foundation is heavily involved in schools reform and counts Cerf among the graduates of its superintendents academy. The foundation is the brain child of Eli and Edythe Broad. Eli Broad made his fortune as a homebuilder and is also founder of an Arts foundation, a science foundation and another concerned with scientific initiatives.