Gowanus Lounge: Serving Brooklyn

Brooklynites Circulating Petition to Obama Against Joe Klein

November 12th, 2008 · 6 Comments

To say that NYC School Chancellor Joel Klein has enemies in Brooklyn and elsewhere in the city is an understatement. He has been mentioned as a possibility for Secretary of Education in an Obama Administration, and Brooklyn groups are busy trying to direct people to an online petition against a Klein nomination directed at President-Elect Obama. The petition had 974 signatures as of 7:34AM (and we’re going to guess there will be more as other blogs pick up this story and repeat it). The full text is after the jump. Among other things, it says that Mr. Klein has “repeatedly championed and implemented policies that support corporate interests as opposed to children.” It also accuses him of running his administration “like a ruthless dictatorship.”

To: President elect Barack Obama

We, the undersigned, devoted thousands of hours of volunteer time to the election of Barack Obama as President. As Professional educators we were encouraged by the promise to have an open and respectful dialogue within the educational community about NCLB, its limits, and its failures. Now, a trial balloon has been advanced in the media for Joel Klein, Chancellor of NYC schools to serve as U.S. Secretary of Education in an Obama Administration. ( It is quite possible that Klein himself promoted the trial balloon.) Trial balloons are trials. They are floated to see how people will react. This petition is a reaction.

The administration of Joel Klein as Chancellor of New York City Schools is representative of a particular rigid approach to school change promoted by NCLB which we oppose. Rather than take the advice of educators, Chancellor Klein repeatedly championed and implemented policies that support corporate interests as opposed to children. The NY City Department of Education under Joel Klein has been run like a ruthless dictatorship �with no input from parents or educators. Teachers have not been respected, consulted, nor listened to. And little thought has been devoted to how the policies he has imposed on our schools have been destructive to the children and their futures.

To lay at the door of schools the many problems the of society�and particularly those that afflict people of color and low income�as does Joel Klein, is a transparent media manipulation of complex issues. While focusing on test scores, he has consistently ignored the crisis of overcrowding in New York schools. Thousands of children are being given special services in hallways or in closets.
Rather than face the complex nature of student achievement and to work for substantive school improvement, Chancellor Joel Klein has joined with others to blame teachers unions and to bash teachers.

He has, at the same time, refused to reduce class size, despite repeated audits and reports from the New York State Comptroller�s office and the State Education Department. Joel Klein has repeatedly demonstrated that his primary goal is improving test scores even when these policies produce cheating and a focus on test preparation. The rise in state test scores that has resulted is not matched by improvements in the more reliable national assessments called the NAEPs. In fact, NYC was 11th out of 12 urban school districts in New York in terms of its gains in the NAEPs over the course of his administration, and there has been no closing of the achievement gap in any subject tested. The available data New York City does not support the claims of improved school achievement under this administration. This singular focus on test scores contradicts the educational platform of the Democratic Party and the Obama campaign.

We were encouraged by the Obama campaign�s call to reform NCLB and for adequate school funding rather than to continue with the narrow blame-the �teacher �focus of the Bush administration and candidate McCain. The Joel Klein administration in NYC has modeled school change efforts of the mode of the Bush/McCain efforts and in stark opposition to the promises of the Obama campaign. For these reasons, and after noting the cries of opposition from parents groups, we the undersigned oppose the nomination of Joel Klein and we call upon the Obama Administration to seek broad public input into important decisions.

Tags: Education · Uncategorized

6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Mare // Nov 12, 2008 at 10:22 am

    Dear Public School Parents,

    Having Obama tap Klein for Ed. Sec. would be a good thing for the DOE because it would get him out of NYC and open the door for someone like Carmen Farina. Plus, Ed. Sec. don’t do much.

  • 2 anon // Nov 12, 2008 at 10:23 am

    I am now torn about this. I have two kids in public schools. My older one received a superior education before Klein while my younger experience was pretty miserable due to the emphasis placed on the tests and the pressure put on teachers and principals which was then put on the students.
    Last year we applied to both middle and high schools and I think there are parents who fear speaking out because they fear jeopardizing their children’s placements. I know it was in the back of my mind especially since the admissions process has become centralized.
    The reason I am torn is that I am beginning to think the sooner Klein is out of the DOE the better and he won’t have the influence on our children that he does now. Maybe we should support this?

  • 3 Gotham Gazette - The Wonkster » Blog Archive » The Klein Rumors // Nov 12, 2008 at 10:58 am

    […] all, as Gowanus Lounge observed, “To say that NYC School Chancellor Joel Klein has enemies in Brooklyn and elsewhere in the […]

  • 4 no_slappz // Nov 12, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    A kid’s education in NY City public schools is a function of the kid himself and the specific schools attended.

    I have two sons in public school now. Both are in excellent schools and doing well as a result. But they might have both landed in troubled schools — schools with too many students who are disruptive.

    I’ve been in those schools. The students themselves are the problem. But they are trouble because of the baggage they bring with them from their lives outside of school. There is nothing a school chancellor can do about the social pathologies that afflict the world outside the schools.

  • 5 b // Nov 12, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    Much as Obama will fix everything in 100 days, the next school chancellor will have NYC turning out straight-A students by the bushel in no time at all. I mean, it’s not like there are any sort of complex problems preventing schools from being effective.

  • 6 I'm A teacher // Nov 22, 2008 at 11:02 am

    I am a NYC school teacher and Klein has FLOODED us with paperwork, enormous class sizes, and inflexibility when it comes to individualized instruction. My colleagues and and I LOVE what we do, but all it is is TEST this and TEST that – there are no more teachable moments! These children, THE FUTURE OF AMERICA, is at a disadvantage due to Klein. Get him out!!!