Thursday, March 8, 2007

Joel Klein, why do you send our kids to schools you wouldn't send your own to?

See this interview with Joel Klein from Fortune magazine in which he talks about the importance of treating schools like a business:

“I’ve talked to a lot of people about this who have retail outlets, banks, bookstores or what have you."

To bad he hasn't bothered to talk to any parents or educators.

He also says: “The hardest part of the job is answering this question: Chancellor, how could you send my kid to a school you wouldn't send your kids to?”

Hmm. Joel Klein's stepdaughter went to Miss Porter’s, a boarding school in Connecticut: average class size of 11.

Bloomberg sent his daughters to Spence; middle and high school classes average 13-14 students.

Yet our kids get class sizes of 28-34 in these grades -- which is just fine with them.

Also, FYI: here is what I found on the Spence website:

Is public transportation is available for the younger students?

The Atlantic Express is a free bus service for students in grades Kindergarten to 6 offered by the City of New York Board of Education and coordinated through the Spence Parents Association. It is available only in Manhattan to families who live within a five-mile radius of the school. Buses pick up and drop off at designated stops.


Noel said...

This is symptomatic of the unblinking faith in free markets as the best means of addressing every issue. Who can afford a better service may have it. Who receives a dollar is accountable for demonstrating quantifiable "performance". ROI above all else. The restructuring push is aimed at leveling the playing field between publicly funded and private institutions, so all have to play by the same rules of market accountability. The problem is that this is completely antithetical to the notion that quality public education is a right in and of itself, not just a product. And if public education is the basis of a functioning liberal democracy, then commodifying education is commodifying democracy, which is terribly frightening.

Klein, Bloomberg, et al would never agree with the argument that they ought to have sent their kids to public schools, because they believe that private schools represent a fairer way of doing business. They may or may not be cultural elitists, but that's beside the point. They would be perfectly happy to see everyone able to select and attend a privately managed school. But it isn't because they think that this will result in a better educated public -- it's because they think that the public education apparatus has had undue control over a huge amount of funding. I don't even think they really care about the poor education many children have received under previous regimes, or the gross mismanagement of funds that has occurred in some situations, they just think this is not right on principle -- that this kind of system is endemically incapable of functioning "healthily". And they believe that healthy economies are the number one aim -- everything else is either a means to that end or an impediment.

But I do believe that a very simple "litmus test" is appropriate on this particular issue. Anyone who wants to work in or with public education but does not or would not send their child to public school just simply shouldn't be counted on to care adequately enough about making the system work. Klein, Bloomberg, and all others ought to be challenged to transfer their children to public schools, or put management of the school system in the hands of people who have no problem with that.

Leonie Haimson said...

I actually believe that in their narrow, wrongheaded and utterly arrogant way, Bloomberg and Klein do believe in public education and that they are doing the right thing to improve our public schools.

But they also believe that the best way to improve it is through competition and the devolution of authority -- esp. since they have never figured out how to do it themselves.

I understand their argument -- its just entirely mistaken. Public schools are a public good; and our schools need systemic improvements which require real leadership.

We don't argue that the rich should be allowed to hire their own private police force or fire fighters-- or that competition among all these private groups will improve safety.

I don't really know why they get away w/ this argument for education.

Patrick Sullivan said...


Many of our current problems do stem from the fact that our political elites won't patronize the public schools. For Bloomberg, who has no skin in the game, it's a vanity play, something to say he "fixed", part of his legacy, and yes, as you say an ideologically motivated experiment. But not with his kids, of course.


Rachel Grynberg said...

It's just that simple -- if you wouldn't send your kids to the public schools, why would you send ANYONE's. The fact that Bloomberg and Klein KNOW BETTER -- KNOW what a REAL education is like and won't give it to our children is a nightmare. I'm quite sure that Spence has no Rubber Room and that no student can accuse a teacher there of something spurious without being booted out herself.