Saturday, December 20, 2008

Did Caroline Kennedy really do the small-schools/Gates deal?

Small Schools make N.Y.'s gossip columns

Just in case you thought that Bloomberg/Klein's small-schools initiative was really "all about the kids..."

N.Y. Chancellor Joel Klein, ever the political manipulator, tried to endear himself and his boss to soon-to-be Senator Caroline Kennedy, by claiming that she personally corralled the $51 million Gates small-schools grant for the district. It's all B.S. says the Village Voice columnist Wayne Barrett. Klein actually did the deal himself with help from his top counsel and former Carnegie chief Michele Cahill says Barrett. This is confirmed by former Gates honcho Tom VanderArk, who made his own rep on the N.Y. deal, and who swears, "she didn't have anything to do with that." Asked what role Kennedy might have had with any of these grants, Vander Ark said: "None would be an overstatement."

It also makes sense because Cahill, when she was at Carnegie, joined with VanderArk and Gates in the initial small-schools grants to N.Y. It also makes sense because, as we point out in our book (pp. 140-141), it was Klein, then an assistant attorney general who headed up the anti-trust division of the Justice Dept., who made the Microsoft anti-trust case go away during the Clinton administration, thereby forever endearing himself to Gates.

Klein's boss, Mayor Bloomberg is now using all of his clout and some of his billions, to ensure that Kennedy inherits Hillary Clinton's seat. This, in return for a Kennedy endorsement when Bloomberg runs for re-election next year. So it now appears that Bloomberg told Klein to inflate Kennedy's resume to include total credit for the Gates/small schools deal.

To her credit, the obviously well-connected Kennedy did work for two months for Klein in the DOE as a part-time dollar/year volunteer, including one hour/week as a fund-raiser in the Office of Strategic Partnerships and on the board of the Fund for Public Schools. She did raise a bundle of money for Klein's so-called "Leadership Academy."

But did she really close the deal with Gates? Not likely. And do we really care?

It's just ironic how small schools have become something of a political trophy at the exact time that the Gates people seem to be running away from the very idea. It should also give us greater insight into the way that ownership society politics drive educational priorities in the Big Apple and the way executives move back and forth between the foundations and school districts in the educational/corporate complex.

If Caroline is smart, she will distance herself from the mess that Bloomberg/Klein have made of New York's once heroic small-schools initiative.

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