As News Corp., Rupert Murdoch's global multimedia conglomerate, continued this week to build its education branch of its division by hiring Charlotte-Mecklenburg district Superintendent Peter Gorman, Joel Klein and Wireless Generation, early entrants into the News Corp. fold, are again drawing criticism in New York City.
The New York Daily News Thursday reported that Wireless Generation, which News Corp. purchased 90 percent of for $360 million last fall, will be awarded a $27-million, no-bid contract by the New York state department of education to develop software to track assessment results and other student data. Because Klein was formerly New York City schools chancellor and now oversees Wireless Generation, some claim the deal reeks of a good-old-boy network, according to the Daily News report.
[UPDATE 6/16/11]: Wireless Generation officials, however, said any claims that Klein's connections influenced the contract were false, and that the company and state had been negotiating since 2009.
While New York City rules forbid former workers from contacting the city agency that employed them for one year after they leave, that doesn't formally prevent Klein from contact with the state department of education.
A similar data system provided to the city school system by Wireless Generation was used to justify a no-bid contract in state documents, despite criticism of the system within the city, the Daily News indicates.
Larry Berger, chief executive officer and founder of Wireless Generation, is also on the board of trustees at Editorial Projects in Education, the nonprofit corporation that publishes Education Week.
Klein and Wireless Generation already drew some heat when GothamSchools reported that the city would renew a $4.5 million, 3-year contract with Wireless Generation for "published and copyrighted assessment and testing materials," according to a document describing the contract.
With News Corp. perceived as conservative in its political leanings—with its ownership of such outlets as the Fox News Channel—there will likely be extra attention given to every major move it makes within the ed-tech realm, as well as the broader world of education. We'll be sure to keep you up to date with the latest.