This is a brief memo to the United States Attorney for New Jersey, Paul Fishman. Mr. Fishman: I am pleased you are finally looking into the behavior of members of the administration of Chris Christie, the governor of the State of New Jersey and your predecessor as United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey. Your inquiry is, from press reports, limited to the circumstances involving the closing of lanes leading to an interstate crossing, the George Washington Bridge, a possible attempted shakedown of the mayor of Hoboken, and the misspending of federal storm relief aid made available to victims of Superstorm Sandy but apparently used for campaign ads for the governor. I hope you also will look into the Christie Administration’s involvement in spending on schools.
I must confess I don’t have all the details yet—unlike you, I can’t employ the FBI to do research for me—but it is clear there may be violations of law arising out of the use of state and federal funds to buy materials from a company that had a relationship with the Christie Administration’s education commissioner, Christopher Cerf.
Just yesterday, Cerf announced he was leaving to take a job with a company called “Amplify.” It is owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch—you may remember Murdoch from the international scandals involving the hacking of voice mails.
The education commissioner directly supervises the operation of several school districts, including Newark. The elected school board there has been stripped of its power and, under statute, all powers once vested in a local school board are now vested in the state-appointed superintendent of schools, a position now held by a woman named Cami Anderson.
Sometime within the last year or so, at a date unknown to me, Anderson entered into a contract with Amplify to purchase educational materials. I do not know the amount of the contract but I have been assured by members of the school district staff that it runs into the millions of dollars.
I know specifically many schools in the district use a language arts program, published by Amplify. There may be other programs purchased by the state-operated district. Amplify products also are used in Jersey City, another state takeover district. Here is an excerpt from the minutes of the last Jersey City school board meeting:
“Mr. Bing provided update on the district’s Amplify Pilot. Amplify is an independent subsidiary of News Corporation, and is built on the foundation of Wireless Generation, the pioneer that brought mobile assessments and instructional analytics to schools across America. To date, Amplify has supported more than 200,000 educators and 3 million students in all 50 states as they begin their digital transition. The district has decided to lease the tablet packages, which are aligned to the Common Core State
Standards and are compliant with the PARCC assessment. Students get a high quality, 10-inch Android tablet that connects to available Wi-Fi networks and uses data filtering software to always ensure safe, secure access and age appropriate learning in school or at home. Infinity School was selected and 2 classes each will receive 25 tablets. The program will be expanding in the upcoming months with PS#38 participating in the
project. Amplify will provide high quality training, project management and customer support.”
You may remember the term “Wireless Generation” from a previous mess-up by the state education department.
This creates at least a grounds for inquiry as to whether Cerf, while in public employment, used his influence to generate business in Newark for a company that he knew was about to hire him.
It’s at least worth a few FBI interviews, isn’t it?