Gowanus Lounge: Serving Brooklyn

Number of Signatures on anti-Joel Klein Petition Circulated by Brooklynites Doubles

November 13th, 2008 · 5 Comments

Yesterday we noted that a number of people–Park Slopers prime among them–were directing people to an online petition urging President-Elect Obama not to name NYC School Chancellor Joel Klein as US Secretary of Education. Since then, the number of signatures has more than doubled and is approaching 2,000. Among other things, the petition 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.” The full text of the anti-Klein petition is after the jump. For those interested in the anti-Klein Manifesto, which is being heavily promoted by members of Park Slope Parents, we present the full text after the jump. A quick glance at those signing shows people from all over the city with many educators represented.

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

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 anon // Nov 13, 2008 at 9:34 am

    What if Joel Klein isn’t a serious contender or isn’t selected for Secretary of Education? That probably means that our children will be further damaged by his policies. I think I might prefer him in DC than in NYC. Could the petition be used to get him removed as chancellor and maybe get an EDUCATOR in that position?

  • 2 Jim // Nov 13, 2008 at 12:12 pm

    Its sad that so many teachers are angery at Joel Klein for asking that they work and actually TEACH our children. We need to test children to find out if teachers are doing their jobs. I guess teachers hate testing because it helps administrators seperate the many great teachers from the handful of lousy ones. Joel Klein has been a great administrator and I am happy to put my kids into public school not that the system has been cleaned up from the travesty of the previous system.

  • 3 Page // Nov 13, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    I’m still not sure what they mean by choosing corporations interests over students?

  • 4 Ann Kjellberg // Nov 14, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    A number of us have also signed this other letter, and its longer variant, which are posted on our web site, pspac.wetpaint.com. More signatures are welcome:

    Dear President-elect Obama,

    First of all let us congratulate you on your election. Many of us worked ardently to advance your cause, and today we celebrate the bright and hopeful years before us under your leadership.

    We write now as parents (and recent parents) in the New York City public school system. We would like to urge in the strongest terms that you select a Secretary for Education with deep practical experience in teaching and learning. We feel that there is a fashion now for placing school reform in the hands of leaders outside the field. In our experience in New York this trend is catastrophic; in our view the administration of Chancellor Joel Klein has disastrously neglected the fundamental needs of children. To lead in education one must understand something about children, about human development, about the history of successes and failures in pedagogy.

    Please appoint an experienced educator, a person close to the lives of children, to lead our nation’s education system.

  • 5 mary lou balfe // Dec 10, 2008 at 2:26 am

    I am a retired reading specialist. Ilove my work and found retirement an extreme bore. Therefore I have continued to work filling in for reading teachers who would go out on maternity leave orother personal leave reasons. Since Chancellor Klein has taken over the Reading position has been abolished. This is a disservice to those who need remedial help to get them up to level thusenabling to keep up with classwork. Since the line is eliminated I have continued to work as a sub until recent cuts have eliminated that also. However as a sub I have had to teach the reading curriculum which I must say breaks all of the good rules of reading instruction. It is a hodgepodge of unrelated activities that will never encourage the love of reading. That plus the daily drills to increase test scores will surley develop a new generation who will gain knowledge through the electronic sector, tv , internet if they can possible decode the info and the like. The love of books and Literature are doomed to this generation of NYC scholars.