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Columns

October 28, 2012

Hey, lobbyist, leave them kids alone!

With the economy and foreign policy in such sharp focus this campaign season, the importance of national education policy has been obscured. This lack of attention should be of concern not only for parents and students, but for anyone worried about our nation’s ability to remain competitive.

There is no doubt that the performance of U.S. students against their international counterparts continues to disappoint. But since the reasons for this are so difficult to pin down, a parade of self-proclaimed experts and “reformers” has emerged in recent years, touting the urgency of their proposed solutions – never mind if they require redirecting streams of taxpayer dollars into the pockets of their friends.

News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch is among the more-recognizable faces of this movement, having purchased education technology firm Wireless Generation for $360 million in November 2010.

“When it comes to K-12 education,” Murdoch said at the time, “we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed by big breakthroughs that extend the reach of great teaching.”

Murdoch’s ranks were recently bolstered by former New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein, who was tapped to lead Amplify, the new edu-products division of News Corp.

Klein also serves on the board of the New York branch of Students First, the Orwellian-named national lobbying PAC founded by former Washington, D.C., school chancellor Michelle Rhee. Given that Rhee has vowed to raise $1 billion in private donations for Students First, one might wonder whether Murdoch is backing her organization – but the group isn’t required to disclose its donors to the Federal Election Commission, and Rhee won’t confirm or deny any of her sponsors.

As star of the documentary film “Waiting for Superman,” Rhee’s celebrity and perceived credibility far exceed what one might expect from someone who taught for only three years and has no experience as a principal or superintendent.

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