We covered the Daily News’s story on the “fat cat lives” of top school officials because the story was killed, which aroused our curiosity.
Now that we see the story, the question we’re asking at our office is, so what?
Some have seen the News story as exposing corruption. That’s wrong. The story reports no evidence that school officials are being paid too much or improperly collecting assets that present conflicts of interest. What it does report is essentially what we already knew: Top school officials in the Bloomberg administration took nontraditional routes into public education. We learn that Chancellor Joel Klein, a former CEO, lives on Park Avenue, and that Garth Harries must have a trust fund. (How else could an early-30’s guy whose glitziest resume bullet is a consulting job at McKinsey have assets between $3.9 and $6 million?)
There are some reasonable questions to pull out of the story. There’s nothing wrong with asking whether a former McKinsey consultant and a former CEO are the most qualified people to run the nation’s largest public school system, or whether $250,000 is too much to pay a schools chancellor (Randi Weingarten, the teachers union leader, makes $350,000) — or even whether affluent people with sparse ties to public schools and public schoolchildren should run them.
Another fair question is whether there is a conflict of interest in a top school official coming from the ranks of a top Department of Education contracting company. Photo Anagnostopoulos, the DOE’s chief operating officer, previously was president of McGraw-Hill Digital Learning, which has an $80 million contract with the department to produce interim assessments — the same ones that racked up courier costs.
But the biggest takeaway here is not that affluent business-world transplants are running the public schools; it’s the likelihood that, by putting in a phone call, the same affluent people were able to go over the heads of reporters and editors and get a story killed.