New York Post

where credit is (and isn't) due

New York

When the story is education, Rupert Murdoch gets involved

Rupert Murdoch takes a strong interest in his newspapers' education coverage. (Photo by WorldEconomicForum on Flickr) How involved is Rupert Murdoch at the newspapers he owns? When the subject is education, Murdoch's views directly influence the coverage in the New York Post and, at the least, the sorts of meetings taken at the Wall Street Journal. Azi Paybarah at the Observer reports today that at the New York Post, education stories are ordered up according to Murdoch's visits: One former reporter said his own editor requested a week’s worth of stories about the New York City public schools because “Rupert was going to be in town.” It was coveted real estate in the paper, and the reporter reluctantly obliged. We have previously chronicled the Post's open campaigning on behalf of the Bloomberg administration's education policies and its effort to renew mayoral control. The coverage prompted Education Secretary Arne Duncan to praise the newspaper for its "leadership" in covering mayoral control. There are some exceptions — New York City education beat reporter Yoav Gonen is even-handed and columnist Michael Goodwin takes no prisoners. But on and off the editorial page, the newspaper often matches Murdoch's education views: aggressively dismissive of the teachers union and ridiculing of critics of the mayor. At the Wall Street Journal, the line between news and opinion and newspaper boss seems to be thicker. But it has some holes. Last week, the New York Times reported on a meeting arranged between Joel Klein, then still the schools chancellor, and reporters: When Mr. Klein visited The Journal last year to discuss education issues with news and opinion writers, Mr. Murdoch interrupted to lavish praise on the chancellor, much to the surprise of the writers. “Just listen to everything that Joel is saying,” Mr. Murdoch insisted, according to one person who attended the meeting.
New York

Bloomberg defends his private search and choice for chancellor

Mayor Michael Bloomberg fought against growing opposition to his selection of magazine publisher Cathie Black this morning, saying that he and Chancellor Joel Klein had "spent a lot of time finding the right person." Bloomberg said he had been discussing Klein's departure with him "for months" and only began to search for a successor in earnest once he "slowly...became convinced" that Klein truly intended to leave. His remarks, on the John Gambling radio show this morning, described the search process: Anybody that comes in wants to have a chance to really get up to speed and make a difference and stick with that difference and implement it and show that it works earlier rather than later. And we'd been talking about it for months, and I've been looking — at the beginning I wasn't sure he [Klein] was serious, but slowly as I became convinced he was, I started looking — and he and I together spent a lot of time finding the right person. The description follows a report in the New York Times that Klein himself only learned who his successor would be on Monday. Black told the New York Post this week that the mayor offered her the job after approaching her a "couple of weeks ago on a Monday." Black's account, as reported in the Post, suggested that the mayor offered her the job at their first meeting: "Monday the mayor called," she told me. "We know each other a long time. I didn't know what he wanted. He only told me this was a personal call and he wanted to meet. I couldn't exactly say, 'Sorry, Mr. Mayor, but I'm busy,' but the fact is I had back-to-back meetings at Hearst, so I said I couldn't today but could tomorrow.' "He said, 'How's 7 a.m. tomorrow?' I said, 'Fine.' We met in his foundation offices. The offer came out of left field, and my stomach did a flip-flop. The opportunity made me feel fantastic." In her Post interview, Black described meeting with Klein for an hour and a half.
New York

Randi Weingarten under fire for mayoral control position

Randi Weingarten testifying at a mayoral control hearing in February. (<em>GothamSchools</em>) A group of parent activists and union members is expressing anger with teachers union leader Randi Weingarten, telling her that she has dropped the ball in fighting for checks to the mayor's power over schools. The frustration began with a May 21 New York Post column, in which Weingarten indicated that she is open to allowing the mayor to continue appointing a majority of members to the citywide school board. A union task force recommended in February that the state legislature reverse that majority as a way to strengthen the board, known as the Panel for Education Policy or PEP. Weingarten's Post op/ed dismayed some members of her own union. "I was quite disappointed and angry, actually," said Lisa North, a teacher who sat on the union's task force to consider revisions to mayoral control. North said the task force never seriously considered recommending that the mayor keep his majority of appointments, and so when union delegates ratified the committee's final recommendations, she expected Weingarten to promote them. "The delegate assembly is supposed to be the highest authority of the union, and it voted for it," she said. In an interview today, Weingarten acknowledged that people have reached out to her with concerns about her position, including her own union members. "I did get a couple of e-mails from members saying, 'Why are you doing what you're doing?'" she said. She said that she empathizes with those concerns. "I totally and completely understand and concur with the frustrations that many have that this mayor and this chancellor have not listened to and respected enough the voices of those who go to our schools, their parents, and those who teach them," she said. But she also said that she has to weigh concerns about checking the mayor's power against the reasons she supported giving the mayor control in 2002. "It's always been a balance of stability, cohesion, and responsibility, which is what mayoral control brought us, and modifying it to create sufficient checks and balances and transparency," Weingarten said.
New York

3 things we know about Thompson's schools view; more we don't

Comptroller Bill Thompson. (Via ##http://flickr.com/photos/azipaybarah/2376506857/##Azi's Flickr##.) My former colleague Jacob Gershman is very good at raising subjects everyone is talking about but nobody says in print. He did so with today's piece on Comptroller William Thompson Jr., who is making school issues a big part of his mayoral campaign — without clarifying his positions on some of the main school issues of the day. Gershman argues Thompson possesses a "carefully cultivated irrelevance." But there is stuff we do know about where Thompson stands on education issues, though much of the facts raise more questions than they answer. First, we know that he's said he favors retaining control of the school system if he becomes mayor. It's unclear exactly how much control he'd like to give himself (a big empty space, as we pointed out), but he's said repeatedly that he supports the mayor having primary authority. "I may be in a shrinking group of those who support it," he told a committee in testimony that was supposed to be off the record but which I obtained when I was at the New York Sun. We also know the two main points of attack Thompson has selected for criticizing Bloomberg's school efforts: He criticizes the mayor on transparency, which he says is so poor that even his office struggles to understand the school system's finances, and parental involvement. Both of these are safe issues; they're exactly the points conceded by one of the most prominent mayoral allies on schools, Geoffrey Canada, and they avoid the nastier battlegrounds of school closings, accountability, and charter schools.