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N.J. State School Chief Waits to Have His Job Made Official

Nearly a year after being named New Jersey's next commissioner of education, Christopher Cerf is still waiting.

Cerf, who was picked for the job way back in December of 2010 by Republican Gov. Chris Christie, has yet to be confirmed to the post by New Jersey's state Senate, which is controlled by Democrats. And until he is, Cerf, a former history teacher and deputy chancellor of New York City schools, goes by the title of "acting commissioner of education."

The fact that Cerf has not been confirmed does not prevent him from carrying out any of his duties, as assigned by state law, said Allison Kobus, a spokeswoman for the New Jersey Department of Education.

While protracted confirmation battles over education officials are not uncommon on Capitol Hill, my impression is that they play out less often in statehouses, at least as applied to state school superintendents. That's probably because most state lawmakers don't have a direct voice in the process: New Jersey is one of a handful of states in which the state schools' chief job requires confirmation by the state legislature, according to the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Speaking with reporters recently, Christie pointed at a couple state senators for the hold-up, particularly lawmaker Ronald L. Rice, who is the co-chair of the Joint Committee on the Public Schools. The governor said the motives of Rice—who did not respond to a request for comment—were political.

"The governor is entitled to his cabinet, as long as his cabinet is qualified," Christie said. "Anybody you talk to who interacts with Chris Cerf will tell you he is eminently qualified to be commissioner of education."

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