Point of View: Position Papers

NYCRC To EEOC: Probe NYC Schools Boss Hire
October 10, 2002

The New York Civil Rights Coalition has asked the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to probe the recent hire of Joel Klein as New York City’s Schools Chancellor, contending that Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York State Education Commissioner Richard Mills used “bogus” and “discriminatory” job criteria to justify the hiring of a white male over available, qualified racial minorities and women.

The group’s complaint was filed with EEOC late yesterday afternoon by fax and first class mail, and was addressed to the three individual EEOC commissioners at the EEOC’s Washington, D.C. headquarters. The complaint, signed by the Coalition’s executive director, Michael Meyers, asked each of the three EEOC Commissioners, Cari M. Dominguez (Chair), Paul S. Miller, and Leslie E. Silverman, to invoke the unusual but established EEOC investigatory procedure of Commissioner Charges and Directed Investigations. Such procedures, according to Meyers’ letter, are “particularly suited for this kind of investigation, since such a probe would both affirm and ensure that enforcement of Title VII is not limited to charges filed by individuals.”

Indicating that the targets of the investigation are all high level elected or appointed public officials, Meyers quoted from the applicable EEOC procedures to urge a “Commissioner’s charge and directed investigation.” He noted that EEOC rules for such charges “recognize that some types and incidents of illegal discrimination will not be the subject of individual charges but, nonetheless, constitute serious violations of the laws that would be the subject of enforcement action.” Examples for such probes, he continued, would include acts of “discrimination against members of underserved communities [when] persons not hired for discriminatory reasons may not be aware that discrimination may have been a factor, and therefore fail to file a charge, or when discrimination victims may be too frightened to file an individual charge. Or an individual may be jurisdictionally barred from filing a charge even though the evidence shows that the underlying discriminatory policy or practice persists.”

In a nutshell, the civil rights group’s complaint is that Joel Klein was hired because of Mayor Bloomberg’s use and reliance on business or extensive management experience outside the field of public education criteria, the complaint alleges, “were never validated as job-related,” and that were used as a subterfuge for meeting the otherwise exacting statutory qualifications required of applicants for a school administrator’s certificate, criteria that include such qualifications as having school administration and supervisory experience. The complaint takes aim at State Education Commissioner Richard Mills for his having “waived standard qualifications so that the under qualified white male would get the position over qualified minorities and women.” In granting the waiver, the complaint asserts, Commissioner Mills “applied in an arbitrary, capricious, and racially discriminatory manner the statutory requirements for a school district superintendent” inasmuch as he “either rewrote or interpreted” the statute so broadly and flexibly as to deem Mr. Klein’s qualifications as equivalent to those specified in the statute, notwithstanding Mr. Klein’s “skimpy educational credentials and his being transparently unqualified in school supervisory experience.”

Michael Meyers’ letter says that Mr. Klein’s hire is the latest act in a “pattern and practice” of discriminatory conduct by New York’s top public officials who have either “invented” discriminatory criteria or “skirted” standard qualifications in order to advance white men over qualified minorities and women for the top New York City public schools administrator’s post. The complaint contends that Commissioner Mills’ granting the waiver to Mr. Klein was “akin to his [having] granted a waiver to Harold O. Levy, two years ago. Mr. Levy was then selected by the NYC Board of Education, from a finalist pool that was exclusively white and male, and he [too] was questionably qualified for a school superintendent’s certificate.” While noting that the NYC Schools Chancellor job has never gone to a woman, Meyers’ letter points out that “Up until the invention and imposition of extensive managerial experience outside of public education as a [job] qualification, racial minorities had no barriers or difficulties qualifying for and getting appointed to this top educator’s position.”

The centrality of the civil rights group’s complaint is that New York officials have changed the rules and standards for selecting the NYC Schools Chancellor so as to “restore white male privilege.” The complaint notes that, on information and belief, the only time the appointing authorities have applied for waivers have been on behalf of white male candidates, using what the complaint describes as “suspect” and discriminatory criteria to effectuate the hire of two under whelming white male candidates in the past two hires of NYC Schools Chancellor.

The EEOC is the principal federal agency chartered to enforce Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; Title VII prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, sex or national origin, including practices that have the effect of discriminating against persons because of their race, color, sex or national origin. A single commissioner, in the interest of pursuing the Commission’s anti-discrimination mission, may initiate a “commissioner’s charge,” requiring an EEOC investigation without the necessity of an individual complaining of a discriminatory action.

For further information or for a copy of the New York Civil Rights Coalition’s letter, contact Michael Meyers at 212-563-5636.