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Posted at 1:18 PM ET, 11/22/2010

The N.Y. chancellorship mess gets messier

By Valerie Strauss

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg likely did not anticipate the heavy pushback he would get against his decision to tap a media executive with no experience in public education as the next chancellor of New York’s public school system

It’s about time that there’s a strong public backlash to an ill-considered education decision. This one has been so strong that the state education commissioner, David Steiner, appointed an eight-person panel that tomorrow will interview Cathleen Black, the Hearst Magazines president who Bloomberg named to succeed the retiring Joel Klein, and make a recommendation as to whether he should grant a waiver to allow her to take the job.

Waivers are required for specific New York education jobs if candidates do not have sufficient experience in the education world. There is a reason that the law was passed in the first place: Experience matters.

Bloomberg knew this when he founded Bloomberg News in 1990 with Matthew Winkler, a veteran business and financial journalist and author who is now editor-in-chief. Bloomberg knew he needed someone with a knowledge of journalism to run a journalism enterprise. Winkler knew he needed a journalist when he named Susan Goldberg, editor of the (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, as executive editor last month.

The world of education is no different. Educators should run educational operations because they understand why and how things need to be done. Principals should be educational leaders because they have to understand the demands on their teachers. School district leaders, too, have to understand personally what is going on in the trenches.

Can non-educators do good work in education? Of course, but outliers don’t make good policy.

Bloomberg’s choice of Black sparked loud criticism from parents, legislators and others. The New York City chancellor’s Parent Advisory Council -- made up of the leaders of the Presidents Councils from each of the 38 districts in New York City -- passed a resolution calling on Bloomberg to appoint a schools chief who doesn’t need a waiver. Meaning someone with education experience.

The city’s public advocate, Bill de Blasio, has written to Bloomberg calling for a public forum on the controversy, saying, “[We must] give public school parents and all New Yorkers a clear understanding of how she will grapple with the tremendous challenges facing the city’s public schools.”

The panel Steiner appointed includes a number of people who have strong ties to Bloomberg.

Louise Mirrer is chairwoman of the New York City Leadership Academy for which Bloomberg helped raise millions of dollars, Michael Barbero wrote in The New York Times, and the mayor has donated from his personal fortune $475,000 to a museum that she runs. He gave her an award two years ago for her work in increasing accessibility for people with disabilities.

Mirrer told Barbero that her panel membership is not relevant to her Bloomberg connections.

At least three members of Steiner’s panel have worked for Bloomberg’s Education Department, though Steiner said that was a positive rather than a negative, presumably because they have a firsthand look at the challenges and an understanding of how to deal with them.

Steiner might ask himself why it is a good thing for panel members to have education experience but not the chancellor.


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By Valerie Strauss  | November 22, 2010; 1:18 PM ET
Categories:  Educational leadership  | Tags:  cathie black, cathleen black, chancellorship, david steiner, joel klein, new york city chancellorship, new york city schools, schools, steiner, steiner panel  
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Here is an even messier link that Fox news just published, about connections between Bloomberg's data-driven policies, and for-profit start-ups that Rupert Murdoch (among many others) is now buying up. Klein is on his way to work for Murdoch.

These are businesses set up to profit from vast public education expenditures for on-line charter exapnsion, and for contracted data management and oversight services, all demanded by the Race to the Top.

The story came up on my Kaplan Ventures search this morning, because of course it mentions the Washingtomn Post's Venture arm, which was relaunched in June with the same goals.

Kaplan Venture LLC and Kaplan Virtual K12 are competitors with Murdoch's own Media/Education Reform juggernaut, of course. Mayor Bloomberg's own media arem, Bloomberg News, in on a path to a possible Pulitzer for its energetic exposure of Kaplan Higher Education's sickening fraud and misrepresentation, but it isn't going to expose any involvement in public education reform profiteering, I think.

The Post Corporation's reputation is now so tarnished by the scandals, and its stock so battered, it will have to retreat from its Kaplan Ventures, and Graham will have to leave the field to Murdoch.

None of these media giants is going to blow the whistle on education profiteers. It's Milo Minderbinder's business corruption strategy in action; everybody has a share.

Posted by: mport84 | November 22, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

I've heard Bloomberg likes to get his own way in everything. He's not a team player.

Posted by: educationlover54 | November 22, 2010 5:40 PM | Report abuse

Ah, the old panel (committee) trick. Stinks of a rotten plot. The sting is on, and the vulnerable populace of NYC is about to get stung. It appears that Steiner will fail to do the just thing and deny this absurd request. Is Steiner but a puppet? Boss Bloomberg should be ashamed, but the smell of money (school related contracts) and power (so many elite beholden to him) seems to soothe his hardened conscience - a most despicable salve.

No waiver! No waiver! No waiver!

Posted by: shadwell1 | November 23, 2010 12:09 AM | Report abuse

From what I've seen of Steiner, this interview panel is just an exercise to give legitimacy to what will essentially amount to rubber stamping of His Majesty's latest folly.

Posted by: buckbuck11 | November 23, 2010 12:13 AM | Report abuse

The only people in education (whether executives or teachers) that are granted "waivers" are in urban areas populated mainly by citizens of color. The "reformers" figured these people were an easy target for the privatization of public schools so they ("reformers") can make a healthy profit. Well, the people are catching on and what happened in DC will happen in New York and then spread across the nation.

As Michelle Rhee said, "These kids are getting a crappy education." Yes, that's because people like Rhee quit after a year or two and people like Bloomberg are around to declare a profit when another teacher "on waiver" is hired to fill the slot. Both types steer their own children away from K-12 education.

Nothing will happen in education without the cooperation of teachers.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | November 23, 2010 12:22 AM | Report abuse

Steiner will simply rubber stamp whatever 2012 Presidential Candidate Michael Bloomberg says, end of story.

Posted by: lacy4 | November 23, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Strauss,

Thank you for this column that so vividly demonstrates the hypocrisy in requiring an educational background for Steiner's panel, while not requiring such a background to head NYC schools. For me, this appointment vividly demonstrates Bloomberg's attempt to corporatize/mayoralize/privatize public schools, with his attacks on teachers and their unions, his lionization of antiunion charlatans like Geoffrey Canada, who seems willing to sell his soul for a buck, extolling virtue on the likes of the horrific control exerted by Michelle Rhee during her disastrous reign over DCSchools, his support for the faux-documentary WAITING FOR SUPERMAN, and his promotion of this strategy to other cities and educational jurisdictions.

He doesn't seem to like public schools much at all, but rather it appears that he's wedging a market niche for investors to capture more public dollars for private coffers via privatization/charterization in yet another wealth transfer that this nation can scarcely afford. In doing so he aligns himself more with Wall Street than Main Street, and does further harm to the already teetering class of Americans of modest means, whose collective lot in life has already been decimated by four decades of erosion...

Thank you for addressing these and other matters and for playing host to your amazing roster of guests, including Diane Ravitch, who is indeed an American treasure...

Thank you very much indeed...

Posted by: bbbbmer1 | November 23, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

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