Educate All Students: Larry Miller's Blog

November 29, 2010

NY State Education Commissioner Caves to Bloomberg Pressure: Billionaires Win and Our Kids Lose Again

Filed under: Mayoral Control — millerlf @ 1:28 pm

(Below are comments by Bob Herbert on class warfare.)

Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire mayor of New York,  chose Cathleen Black  as Chancellor of NY public schools without any public search — in fact, until minutes before the announcement, even some of his aides did not know that Mr. Klein was leaving or that she was being named to replace her.

The choice was met with skepticism and opposition from City Council members and some parent groups, who argued that the system needed an experienced educator. Because Ms. Black lacks the credentials required by state law, Mr. Bloomberg was required to seek a waiver from the state’s education commissioner, David M. Steiner.

In a deal between Mr. Steiner and the mayor to save Ms. Black’s faltering candidacy, Shael Polakow-Suransky, a career educator, was named chief academic officer to serve as Ms. Black’s No. 2. Mr. Polakow-Suransky was the school system’s deputy chancellor of performance and accountability before his appointment.

Mr. Steiner had expressed skepticism about Ms. Black’s ability to master the intricacies of the nation’s largest school system. Her cause was further undermined in November 2010 when six of the eight members of a panel Dr. Steiner appointed to evaluate Ms. Black’s background voted to deny granting an exemption.

Ms. Black is scheduled to take office on Jan. 1, 2011. She would be the first woman to head the nation’s largest school system, with about 1.1 million children, 80,000 teachers and more than 1,400 schools. She was the first woman to lead the Hearst Corporation’s magazine division and, way back in 1979, the first female publisher of a weekly consumer magazine, New York.

Mr. Bloomberg has argued that Ms. Black is a “superstar manager” whose expertise in cost-cutting and dealing with customers would be a boon to a school system in financial straits. The mayor contended that under the 2002 law that gave him control of the city schools, he should be able to appoint whomever he pleased.

(Read the truth about Bloomberg and his obscene choice for New York City’s public school chancellor.)

Winning the Class War By BOB HERBERT Published: November 26, 2010

A stark example of the potential for real (class) conflict is being played out in New York City, where the multibillionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has selected a glittering example of the American aristocracy to be the city’s schools chancellor. Cathleen Black, chairwoman of Hearst Magazines, has a reputation as a crackerjack corporate executive but absolutely no background in education.

Ms. Black travels in the rarefied environs of the very rich. Her own children went to private boarding schools. She owns a penthouse on Park Avenue and a $4 million home in Southampton. She was able to loan a $47,600 Bulgari bracelet to a museum for an exhibit showing off the baubles of the city’s most successful women.

Ms. Black will be peering across an almost unbridgeable gap between her and the largely poor and working-class parents and students she will be expected to serve. Worse, Mr. Bloomberg, heralding Ms. Black as a “superstar manager,” has made it clear that because of budget shortfalls she will be focused on managing cutbacks to the school system.

So here we have the billionaire and the millionaire telling the poor and the struggling — the little people — that they will just have to make do with less. You can almost feel the bitterness rising.

Extreme inequality is already contributing mightily to political and other forms of polarization in the U.S. And it is a major force undermining the idea that as citizens we should try to face the nation’s problems, economic and otherwise, in a reasonably united fashion. When so many people are tumbling toward the bottom, the tendency is to fight among each other for increasingly scarce resources.

What’s really needed is for working Americans to form alliances and try, in a spirit of good will, to work out equitable solutions to the myriad problems facing so many ordinary individuals and families. Strong leaders are needed to develop such alliances and fight back against the forces that nearly destroyed the economy and have left working Americans in the lurch.

Aristocrats were supposed to be anathema to Americans. Now, while much of the rest of the nation is suffering, they are the only ones who can afford to smile.

A version of this op-ed appeared in print on November 27, 2010, on page A19 of the New York edition.


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