In an op-ed in Sunday's Wall Street Journal, News Corp. executive vice president Joel Klein attacked the ongoing teachers' strike in Chicago without disclosing his role in administering $4.7 million in educational testing contracts at the heart of the dispute.
In 2010, News Corp. purchased 90 percent of the education technology company Wireless Generation for $360 million, incorporating that company into the education subsidiary of News Corp. now known as Amplify.
Klein, the former schools chancellor for New York City, was hired by Rupert Murdoch to run News Corp.'s education division in July of 2010 and is now the CEO of Amplify. While the Journal -- which is also owned by News Corp. -- identified Klein as Amplify's CEO, neither the paper nor Klein himself disclosed that the company has millions of dollars in contracts for the very testing that is a central issue in the strike.
Last week, nearly one thousand representatives from business groups, education departments, state legislatures, and free-market think tanks descended on San Francisco's Palace Hotel to strategize a revolution in American education. Focused on state-level politics and driven by marketing buzzwords like "blended learning" and "customized online instruction," it was not the kind of policy powwow that typically draws national media attention.
But education reform is a hot topic these days, and interest in the two-day "Excellence in Action" summit was further heightened by the controversial presence of the summit's keynote speaker: News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch, whose recent foray into for-profit education has focused a spotlight on an increasingly confident and ambitious movement to privatize and digitize American K-through-12.
The debate over the reforms endorsed at "Excellence in Action" has been steadily intensifying. Reform boosters -- a mix of (mostly) Republican state lawmakers, for-profit education companies and their lobbyists, and libertarian ideologues -- maintain that creating a competitive hi-tech education marketplace will make U.S. students more competitive internationally and close the much-lamented achievement gap. Critics suspect an agenda that has more to do with smashing teachers unions and turning tax dollars into profits. Since entering the education reform fray, Murdoch has become a vocal reform booster and unlikely spokesperson for "our children." As he has several times before, he used his time in San Francisco to argue forcefully that what public education needs is a good dose of free-market innovation. "Put simply we must approach education the way Steve Jobs approached every industry he touched. To be willing to blow up what doesn't work or gets in the way."