Murdoch in the Schools
August 5th, 2011
The city and state teachers union are stepping up their opposition to the awarding of a state education contract to a company owned by Rupert Murdoch.
The unions have not been big fans of the beleaguered press mogul – or of former Chancellor Joel Klein, who now heads education technology (and damaged control?) for him. And the deal has been raising eyebrows since June when the Daily News’ Rachael Monahan reported that the state Department of Education was about to award a $27 million no-bid contract to Wireless Generation to develop a system for the state similar to the city’s Achievement Reporting and Innovation System or ARIS.
Klein had been a big promoter of Wireless Generation during his days as chancellor. Two weeks after he left the city to take a mega-lucrative deal with News Corp., the Murdoch company bought Wireless Generation. Admittedly Klein himself worked for the city, not the state. But the ties are there –- and the former chancellor certainly stands to benefit from a deal that, in the view of a Forbes blogger, “smack of cronyism.”
The phone hacking scandal has raised further doubts. In their letter to Merryl Tisch, chancellor of the state Board of Regents, and state Education Commissioner John King Jr., state United Teachers president Richard Ianuzzi and Michael Mulgrew, head of the city teachers union, stressed those concerns. Parents and educators, they wrote, question “the wisdom of allowing a News Corp.-owned company to have access the the personal data of students from all across New York.”
Perhaps taking a dig at Klein — who is leading the company’s own probe of its alleged misdeeds, the letter continued, “That News Corp. chose to launch its own investigation rather than open itself to outside scrutiny only furthers the mistrust that people are feeling and raises serious questions about News Corp./Wireless Generation with respect to transparency, oversight and accountability.”
Meanwhile, Monahan reported last weekend that a number of other companies had expressed interest in the contract with the state — raising further questions about why the deal was done on a no-bid basis.
Agency officials told Monahan they decided not to pursue other vendors because of the “extremely challenging time line” for the project, since it needs to meet a fall 2012 set in the state’s federal Race to the Top grant. Given that, Wireless Generation may not be the best bet. As the city rolled out the system, there were widespread delays.
The state comptroller still needs to prove the contractBy Gail Robinson on August 5, 2011, 1:08 pm
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