Point of View: Position Papers

Bloomberg’s Schools Boss Pick Criticized As ‘Unqualified’ By Civil Rights Group
July 30, 2002

The executive director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition, Michael Meyers, today criticized Mayor Bloomberg’s choice of Joel I. Klein for New York City Schools Chancellor. Michael Meyers said that Mr. Klein is “patently unqualified” to assume the post. Mr. Meyers’ full statement follows:

“At a time we are raising standards for our school children Mayor Bloomberg has lowered the bar of qualifications for the city’s Schools Boss. This is shocking and appalling because there are so many persons available to pick from with the requisite educational training and managerial skills who would not need a waiver from the State Education department to assume the post of superintendent of the state’s biggest and most diverse school district.

“Mr. Klein may very well be a nice person and a good prosecutor, but he is patently unqualified to assume the post of New York City Schools Chancellor because he lacks the requisite educational training and, hence, needs a waiver from State Education Commissioner Richard Mills. Today, we will fax Commissioner Mills urging that he undertake a careful and deliberative review of the application for a waiver, and requesting that, this time, in stark contrast to his granting the waiver for Harold Levy, he not act with such obscene haste or without the opportunity for full public comment and opposition.

“This is a 21st century era in which educational accountability necessitates a leader of our public schools who doesn?t need on the job training or on the job learning about how to manage and lead educators. The statute’s educational specifications for school superintendents are intended to ensure in the first instance that our Schools Chancellor is not so limited in his personal awareness and professional training as to be the lesser of the persons he is to supervise, evaluate, and lead in the field of public education; otherwise, the novice in educational pedagogy and educational administration could very easily become the captive of those professional educators who hoard over him their superior educational credentials and experience.

“There may very well be civil rights concerns surrounding this appointment since we know that qualified minorities were available but Mr. Bloomberg nevertheless ignored the basic qualifications of the job in a way that fosters a climate and attitude of reverse discrimination. This is flawed thinking, at best, and quite frankly, enormous chutzpah on the part of the Mayor. It takes noblesse oblige way too far, to the point that children will see through this appointment as the imposition of double standards, cronyism, and an unapologetic break with qualifications. Children are not fooled by the mere verbalization of slogans about high standards and qualifications in the guise of adaptive criteria that suit the resume of the choice of public officials like Mayor Bloomberg who ignore and skirt the very standards that the law specifies for the superintendent of schools.

“The selection of Mr. Klein as our next Schools Chancellor breeds in the public only cynicism about the standards movement. It must be scrutinized and contested as not in the best interests of our children.”