The Klein Rumors
November 12th, 2008

While most Americans wait to see who President-elect Barack Obama will appoint as secretary of state or treasury, some New Yorkers have focused on the less weighty post of secretary of education (and for five points who holds this job now?). Once the rumor surfaced that Schools Chancellor Joel Klein might get the nod, New Yorkers involved in schools reacted fast — and in many cases furiously.

“I’m not sure why there is so much interest in Obama’s secretary of ed appointment,” the Small Talk reported, “but when the name of N.Y. schools chancellor, Joel Klein emerged on the short list, the education blog pot started boiling.”

“You know those scenes in movies where people put their hands over their eyes in horror at an accident that was about to happen? That is how NYC educators and parents feel since the ugly rumor in the Huffington Post that NYC Chancellor Joel Klein is a possible choice for education secretary in the Obama administration,” said Education Notes Online.

After all, as Gowanus Lounge observed, “To say that NYC School Chancellor Joel Klein has enemies in Brooklyn and elsewhere in the city is an understatement.”

Educators who worked for Obama’s election can sign an online petition opposing Klein’s appointment saying as chancellor he has, “repeatedly championed and implemented policies that support corporate interests as opposed to children” and run the city’s education department “like a ruthless dictatorship.”

On NYC Public School Parents, Leonie Haimson, a prominent critic of Klein’s policies, posted a long letter scoring his record as chancellor, particularly his failure, in her view, to reduce overcrowding in city schools. “He has consistently ignored the crisis of overcrowding in our school … and under this administration, twice as many new seats have been created in new stadiums than schools,” Haimson writes. She also lambastes Klein’s management of the school system and reliance on standardized testing. In response to Haimson’s invitation more than a dozen people commented on her post, echoing Haimson’s criticisms and providing some of their own.

The Independent Community of Educators has urged the teachers union to pass a resolution pledging to “toil to defeat any nominee such as Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, Joel Klein, Paul Vallas or any other potential secretary of education who supports corporate style, top-down, high stakes test crazed, teacher bashing accountability.”

Klein does have his supporters. The New York Observer opined: We cannot think of anyone more qualified to be secretary of education than New York’s schools chancellor…. We’re hesitant to lose him, because he has done a remarkable job in New York. But if he can do for the nation what he has done in New York, we’ll all be better off.”

And Richard Cohen of the Washington Post (no kids in New York City schools for him) also likes Klein, writing

, ” Next to [former Vice President Al] Gore at State, nothing would show how much the Obama administration will break from the past than by elevating the secretary of education to the inner cabinet. My choice: Joel Klein, New York City’s schools chancellor.’

Will it happen? In this time of overheated rumor-mongering and balloon floating about everything elated to an Obama administration, who knows? But the Wall Street Journal found a significant policy difference between Obama and Klein about the role of standardized testing. Obama has called for alternatives to standardized testing. Klein, as every test prepped city student knows, has a very different view, as he told the Journal: “If you water down accountability, if success or failure depends on the eye of the beholder, you run the risk of letting down kids.”

For his part, Klein apparently thinks he has what it takes for the job. Through his spokesman David Cantor he told the Times, “The chancellor has spent the last six years building a school system focused on the needs of kids. Along the way he’s angered adults with entrenched interests in policies that have never worked. That’s a trade he’ll make every time.”

By on November 12, 2008, 10:58 am
In category: Education | 2 Comments »

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2 Responses to “The Klein Rumors”

  1. Ann Kjellberg Says:
    November 13th, 2008 at 10:17 am

    Over 100 New York City parents since Friday have also signed this letter to President-elect Obama on the subject of the Education Secretary appointment:

    Dear President-elect Obama,

    First of all let us congratulate you on your election. Many of us worked ardently to advance your cause, and today we celebrate the bright and hopeful years before us under your leadership.

    We write now as parents (and recent parents) in the New York City public school system. We would like to urge in the strongest terms that you select a Secretary for Education with deep practical experience in teaching and learning. We feel that there is a fashion now for placing school reform in the hands of leaders outside the field. In our experience in New York this trend is catastrophic; in our view the administration of Chancellor Joel Klein has disastrously neglected the fundamental needs of children. To lead in education one must understand something about children, about human development, about the history of successes and failures in pedagogy.

    Please appoint an experienced educator, a person close to the lives of children, to lead our nation’s education system.

  2. Paul A. Moore Says:
    November 13th, 2008 at 10:41 am

    Hope President-elect Obama will consider the recent history of corporate America’s assault on public education before puting a wolf in sheep’s clothing like Mr. Klein in charge.

    Fueled with the fire of the Reagan Revolution the globalizers put the finishing touches on their devious campaign at the Business Roundtable education summit in 1989. Standardized testing would be their primary weapon. The tests would isolate urban schools first and bury them under public posturing for accountability. The corporate vultures from Edison Schools and the others would move in to pick up the pieces and impose their gospel, the business model. Vouchers and charter schools would even redirect public monies to the destruction of public schools.

    Toxic wastes, like incessant testing and mindless data collection and merit pay plans, would be pumped into the public school environment to sicken both teachers and students. And bye-and-bye the privatizers would have a brave new education system to serve their global economy.

    And they were so close. They had their blueprint for legally closing public schools, the No Child Left Behind Act, in place. Billionaire Bloomberg and his CEO sidekick Joel Klein were in control in New York City. Mayor Daley and Arne Duncan were strangling the Chicago Public Schools. Mayor Villariagosa and Admiral Brewer were trying to get their hands around the throats of the Los Angeles Unified Public Schools. Jeb Bush, in and out of office, was calling the shots in Florida. Bill Gates had succeeded in winning Washington D.C. for Mayor Fenty and he in turn introduced the nation to a new level of ruthlessness and brutality in the person and policies of Michelle Rhee. Eli Broad’s superintendents dotted the landscape from Vallas in New Orleans to Crew in Miami, chirping over the achievement gap and with grave voices declaring “the children of Singapore are eating our kids lunch.” Many of those pesky democratically elected school boards had been eliminated.

    Then just as the campaign appeared ready to bear fruit, their rationale for being, their precious global economy, crashed! Their pride and joy is burning as you read. It was supposed to be immutable. It was eternal! Now that cetainty is all gone.

    A forlorn John Castellani’s mug has been all over TV recently. He’s the president of the Business Roundtable. Who could have imagined that less than twenty years after their education summit these same men would appear on their knees, hat in hand, to desperately plead with every public school teacher, parent and student to give them $3,000 as their share of a $700 billion public bailout. Goodness, what happened to their vaunted business model? Somehow these proponents of data driven education have no idea what their collateralized debt obligations (CDO’s) and structured investment vehicles (SIV’s) are worth. Most shockingly, the poster boys for accountability who pranced around with their noses in the air chanting “no excuses” over the battered minds and bodies of poor children, now beg for sympathy and want to be rescued by their victims.

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