I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Once Again, Joel Klein Is Full Of It

UPDATE: I think it was Leonie who first told me that one of the most impressive things about Diane Ravitch is that she has a mind like a steel trap: she forgets nothing.

In Diane's blog post pointing over here, she notes an omission I made below:
After reviewing a few of many fiascoes (he overlooked the Alvarez & Marsal contract for $15.8 million to rearrange bus schedules that left thousands of children stranded on the coldest day of the year)...
Yep, that is one of Klein's all-time great screw-ups, and I missed it; thanks for the catch, Diane. Here's her original post on this:

In 2006, then Chancellor Joel Klein gave a contract for $15.8 million to business turnaround consultants Alvarez & Marsal to reorganize the transportation program. Some of the executives were paid $500 an hour (plus expenses). On January 31, 2007, the buses adopted the A&M schedule for the first time. It was the coldest day of the year. Thousands of children were left stranded on bitter-cold corners. It was chaos.
Chancellor Klein defended the choice of A&M, saying they had saved the city at least $50 million.
Presumably, this is the system that the mayor now finds intolerable and outrageously expensive.
The story is also retold in Diane's last book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System, which you really should read now before her new book comes out later this year.

Also: here's a comprehensive look at contracting in the Joel Klein era by Adrienne Day.


Thanks to Leonie Haimson and Lisa Fleisher, we now know that there is no accountability whatsoever at the top of the New York City schools: nobody gets evaluated, even as they scream for more test-based evaluations for teachers.

But there was one other part of Fliesher's story really caught my eye:
Joel Klein, schools chief from 2002 to 2010, said he received constant feedback from the mayor, and evaluated his team daily. "When a member of my team's performance wasn't up to standards, I didn't issue a report," he wrote in a emailed statement. Mr. Klein works for News Corp., which owns The Wall Street Journal. "They were terminated." [emphasis mine]
Oh, really?

- When then-Deputy Commissioner Chris Cerf violated city law by not disclosing his equity stake in Edison Schools, Inc - even as the company was doing business with the city's schools - was he fired? No.

- When the NYCDOE gave millions of dollars in no-bid contracts to a firm that didn't even have offices, was anyone fired? No.

- When NYCDOE inked a contract with Verizon, even though the company owed the city millions from overcharging, was anyone fired? No.

- When the department lost a lawsuit to the teachers union because it hadn't followed proper legal procedures for closing schools, was anyone fired? No.

- When the Comptroller found: "...gross cost over-runs by outside contractors hired by the Department that have cost New York City taxpayers over $720 million and denied students funds for basic supplies," was anyone fired? No.

- When Klein hired an outside consultant under another no-bid contract to find cost savings, but wound up instead bungling the district's school bus routes, stranding thousands of students, was anyone fired?

Yes: he fired the school bus department's director of contract compliance - hardly a senior position. But only after the Daily News ran a series of stories detailing how incidents of abuse on busses had skyrocketed under Klein.

I have no doubt that NYC bloggers like Leonie Haimson or Norm Scott could keep going with this if they wanted. The truth is that Joel Klein's tenure as the Chancellor was rife with incompetence and unaccountability. He was happy to point the finger at teachers whenever possible, play the blame game with the union, and throw junior staffers under the bus when needed.

But Klein never held his senior staff - or himself - accountable for anything. In many ways, he is the personification of the corporate reform movement: a movement that refuses to take responsibility for its own many failings.

I fired this many people! Because I was awesome!


Leonie Haimson said...

great piece, thanks! You did all the work recounting just some of the horror show at Tweed -- with no consequences for anyone at the top. It would be funny if it weren't so sad.

Christa Allan said...

Was our not-so-Superintendent John White working with/for/under Joel Klein during this time?

Unknown said...

And let's not forget Klein's self-satisfied declaration that education was this generation's civil rights issue -- as he spent years distorting the City's test results to show that minorities were closing the achievement gap --a claim that was concurrently being disporoven by solid NAEP findings. The lack of accountability for a decade of lies by his press people and the damage being done to the kids cannot be forgiven.