Jewish Leaders of the Education Debate

Four Key Players Who Can Change Our Nation's Schools


By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published February 11, 2013, issue of February 08, 2013.
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4. Joel Klein: The Businessman

The effort to fix public education, Joel Klein argues, won’t just require government intervention.

Klein, the former New York City schools chancellor under Bloomberg, has emerged since leaving government as a key advocate for education reform — and for private sector involvement in the school system.

“[The] ideological foes of business’ contribution to the public good ignore history in their attempt to protect a failed status quo,” Klein wrote in The Atlantic in August. “If their campaign to quash educational innovation succeeds, the real losers will be our kids.”

Klein has made that argument in his writing, arguing that nationalized education standards will allow corporations to invest in research towards new education technology. He’s also made it in his work. Klein now heads Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation’s education arm, called Amplify. The company plans to sell specially designed tablet computers to elementary and high schools that Klein says will improve educational outcomes.

While calling for increasing the role of business in public education, Klein has also pushed against union power. He is a critic of union-backed measures like teacher tenure and automatic seniority-based raises. He argues for merit-based pay and, above all, more charter schools.

Like Ravitch, Klein’s biography plays an important part in his advocacy. Brought up in a Jewish family in Queens, Klein himself attended public schools.

“I got a terrific education in Astoria,” he told The New York Times Magazine in April. “Back then, my teachers never seemed to say to me, ‘Because you live in public housing, we shouldn’t expect great things from you.’ But the more people believe that education won’t make their kids’ lives better, the more we’re going to undermine the American experience.”

Josh Nathan-Kazis is a staff writer at the Forward. He can be reached on email at nathankazis@forward.com or on Twitter @joshnathankazis.


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