Joel Klein

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Joel Klein
Joel Klein.JPG
Chancellor of New York City Schools
In office
August 19, 2002 – January 1, 2011
Appointed byMichael Bloomberg
Preceded byHarold Levy
Succeeded byCathie Black
United States Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division
In office
PresidentBill Clinton
Preceded byAnne Bingaman
Succeeded byDouglas Melamed
Personal details
Born (1946-10-25) October 25, 1946 (age 72)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Nicole Seligman
Alma materColumbia University
Harvard University

Joel Irwin Klein (born October 25, 1946) is an American lawyer and school superintendent. He was the Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, the largest public school system in the United States, serving more than 1.1 million students in more than 1,600 schools. He was succeeded by Cathie Black in January 2011.

New York magazine ranked Klein as one of the most influential people in public education.[1] Klein had never obtained the common formal credentials that one would have to take a leadership role in a public school system, and Klein had a short duration of teaching experience.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Klein grew up in New York City and attended public schools, graduating from William Cullen Bryant High School in Queens in 1963. He attended Columbia University, graduating magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa.[citation needed] He received his law degree from Harvard Law School, again graduating magna cum laude, in 1971. He then clerked for Chief Judge David Bazelon on the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit from 1973 until 1974, before then clerking for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell.[3]


In 1975, Klein joined the legal team of the Washington, D.C., non-profit Mental Health Law Project. The MHLP was an independent non-profit organization that brought class-action suits to establish rights for mentally and developmentally disabled clients. In that capacity, Klein developed a specialty in health care and constitutional matters.[4] After working there for a year, he went into private practice, working for five years before founding his own law firm with several partners. In the 1990s Klein served in the White House Counsel's office under President Bill Clinton before being appointed to the United States Department of Justice. There he served as United States Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Antitrust Division. In this capacity, he was the lead prosecutor in the antitrust case United States v. Microsoft. Prior to his appointment to Chancellor in 2002[5] by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Klein was Counsel to Bertelsmann, an international media group.

Klein was rumored to be one of Barack Obama's candidates for Secretary of Education.[6] Ultimately, the position went to the Chief Executive Officer of the Chicago Public Schools, Arne Duncan, then to John King Jr..

New York City School Chancellor[edit]

In 1998, before Klein became Chancellor, the New York City Board of Education transferred responsibility for school safety to the New York City Police Department.[7] Klein has been criticized for not seeking to alter this arrangement or to curb the conduct of the Police Department's school safety agents in the face of allegations of abuse.[7][8] Klein has praised the work of the school safety agents in contributing to a decrease in crime in the public schools.[9]

Despite their opposing positions in the Justice Department antitrust case against Microsoft, Klein was able to work with the Gates Foundation to fund the creation of smaller schools in New York City. At the 43 small high schools funded by the Gates Foundation graduation rates are 73% compared to 53% at the schools they replaced.[10][11] The researchers only examined schools selectively; for example 33 small schools were omitted from the analysis.[12] According to Bob Herbert, Bill Gates later admitted that the idea of breaking up schools was a failure.[13]

In 2004, a controversy beset Klein's administration, as two members of his staff -- deputy chancellor Diana Lam and lawyer Chad Vignola -- both resigned amid accusations of nepotism; she was accused of helping her husband gain employment in the system without following conflicts of interest procedures, and Vignola was accused of trying to cover it up.[14][15] A report by Schools Investigator Richard Condon found Lam helped her husband get two jobs improperly, and criticized Vignola for falsely claiming that the husband was a volunteer rather than a hired employee.[16]

In 2005, Klein fired Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi from the teacher training program, reportedly because of Khalidi's political views. After the controversial decision, Columbia University president Lee Bollinger spoke out on Khalidi's behalf, writing: "The department's decision to dismiss Professor Khalidi from the program was wrong and violates First Amendment principles.... The decision was based solely on his purported political views and was made without any consultation and apparently without any review of the facts."[17] The program's creator Mark Willner stated that (Khalidi) "spoke on geography and demography," and that "There was nothing controversial, nothing political."[17]

In 2007, Klein installed a computer system called The Achievement Reporting and Innovation System (ARIS), at a cost of $95 million, with records on 1 million current and former students. Teachers and parents were able to track student progress with the system. After Klein left his job as chancellor to work at the News Corp., a company owned by the News Corp. got a contract for nearly $10 million to manage the system in 2012. Subsequent News Corp. contracts were worth millions more. Klein denied a conflict of interest. Finally, in 2014, the Education Department decided to abandon the system, due to its high cost, limited functionality, and little use by parents and staff.[18][19]

News Corporation[edit]

On November 9, 2010, Bloomberg announced that Klein would resign as chancellor and would take a position as an executive vice president for News Corporation. Klein's date of departure was not immediately clear but it was later announced that he would be gone at the end of the year.[20] He was replaced by Cathie Black, chairman of Hearst Magazines and former president of USA Today, on January 3, 2011.[21]

On July 6, 2011, Rupert Murdoch, chairman of the News Corporation[22] and the company's CEO, announced that Joel Klein would "provide important oversight and guidance" in the internal investigation of phone hacking at News of the World.[23] Klein took over the investigation, with fellow director Viet D. Dinh, from News International UK Chief Executive, Rebekah Brooks, whose own involvement in the phone hacking scandal made her unable to continue as an impartial investigator.[24]

Since joining News Corp, Klein has recruited at least two other executives from the New York City Department of Education. In February 2011 New York City Department of Education's Communications Director, Natalie Ravitz, announced that she would be joining News Corp as Klein's chief of staff. According to, a nonprofit non partisan news website that reports on the New York City Schools, "Ravitz is following a well-worn path from the department to NewsCorp: Ex-schools chief Joel Klein, who was chancellor when Ravitz was hired, now heads the company's growing education division. Last summer, Klein picked Kristen Kane, the department's former chief operating officer, to become the division's COO. He also acquired Wireless Generation, the technology company that developed and managed ARIS, the city's school data warehouse."[25]

In 2016, he became a “top executive” with New York health insurance start-up Oscar which has a focus on technology.[26]

Personal life[edit]

Klein is married to Nicole Seligman, General Counsel to Howard Stringer of Sony Corp. Seligman was on the legal team of then-President Bill Clinton during impeachment proceedings in the United States Senate.


  1. ^ "The Influentials: Education." New York magazine. Retrieved on July 10, 2013.
  2. ^ Merrow, John. "Love or loathe him, Joel Klein is the person most responsible for shaping U.S. schools today." New York Daily News. Sunday June 5, 2011. Retrieved on July 10, 2013. "But the evidence suggests that our most influential educator is a lawyer who only very briefly taught in public school and never had the formal credentials to lead a public school system."
  3. ^ Woodward, Bob; Armstrong, Scott (1979). The Brethren. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 354. ISBN 0-671-24110-9.
  4. ^ Joel I. Klein Biography
  5. ^ Chancellor Joel I. Klein, New York City Department of Education, Archived February 15, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Murray, Shailagh (2008-11-05). "Early Transition Decisions to Shape Obama Presidency". Washington Post.
  7. ^ a b Lieberman, Donna (September 10, 2008). "Column: Unchecked Policing at Our Schools (New York Metro)". New York Civil Liberties Union. Retrieved 2008-11-14.
  8. ^ Hentoff, Nat (October 28, 2008). "Bloomberg's Cops Illegally Cuffing Kids Under 16?". The Village Voice.
  9. ^ "Mayor Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Kelly, and Schools Chancellor Klein Announce an 11 Percent Drop in Major Felony Crime in City Schools During the 2007-08 School Year" (Press release). August 5, 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-14.
  10. ^ Melinda Gates goes public
  11. ^ Small schools up graduation rates for struggling NYC kids, By Karen Matthews, The Associated Press, USA Today, June 6, 2010
  12. ^ All the hallelujahs about small schools in New York, real or hype? By Valerie Strauss, Washington Post, October 23, 2014
  13. ^ In The Arena: The Plot Against Public Education: How millionaires and billionaires are ruining our schools. By Bob Herbert, Politico, October 06, 2014
  14. ^ "Key N.Y.C. School Official Forced to Resign," Education Week.
  15. ^ "Schools' Top Lawyer Quits In Uproar Over Nepotism," The New York Times.
  16. ^ "Ed. Flap Lawyer Resigns – Accused Of Cover-Up," The New York Post.
  17. ^ a b Purnick, Joyse (February 28, 2005). "Some Limits on Speech in Classrooms". Metro Matters. The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-12.
  18. ^ City schools dumping $95 million computer system for tracking student data BY Ben Chapman, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, November 16, 2014
  19. ^ New York Is Eliminating Data System Championed by Education Reformer Joel Klein, By Ben Mathis-Lilley, Slate, Nov. 17 2014
  20. ^ Newman, Andy. "Hearst Official to Replace Klein at Helm of City Schools", The New York Times, November 9, 2010
  21. ^ "Cathie Black Set To Start Monday as New York City Schools Chancellor". CBS New York. CBS. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  22. ^ Graham Bowley (2011-07-08). "A Murdoch Loyalist Hangs On, Raising Questions About a Corporate Strategy". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-07-09.
  23. ^ Rupert Murdoch (2011-07-06). "Statement from News Corporation Chairman Rupert Murdoch". News of the World. © 2011 News Group Newspapers Ltd. Retrieved 2011-07-08.
  24. ^ Doward, Jamie, Toby Helm, et al., "Phone-hacking scandal: is this the tipping point for Murdoch's empire?", The Guardian, 9 July 2011 23.11 BST. Retrieved 2011-07-12.
  25. ^ Philissa Cramer (2012-01-31). "DOE's press chief leaving to become Rupert Murdoch's top aide". GothamSchools. Retrieved 2012-01-31.
  26. ^ Otterman, Sharon (January 15, 2016). "Joel Klein, Ex-New York Schools Chancellor, to Join Health Insurance Start-Up". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 March 2019.

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Anne Bingaman
United States Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division
Succeeded by
Douglas Melamed
Political offices
Preceded by
Harold Levy
Chancellor of New York City Schools
Succeeded by
Cathie Black