Even amid the phone-hacking scandal surrounding News Corp.-owned News of the World, it appears education remains a big priority for News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch.
Murdoch, who launched News Corp.'s education division last November, will be the headline speaker during the second morning of this year's National Summit on Education Reform, held by the Foundation for Excellence in Education in San Francisco this October.
The engagement would appear to signal that Murdoch has no intention of slowing his long-term involvement in education, even after the recent rejection of a contract for the construction of a statewide data system between Wireless Generation—the first and only education company to be procured under News Corp.'s new education division to date—and New York State.
It may also do little to assuage the fears of critics who say News Corp. Education, led by former New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, will be investing in technologies and products that run counter to teacher interests. Murdoch and Klein have both indicated that additional News Corp. Education procurements would be made in the attempt to use technology to, in Murdoch's words, "extend the reach of great teaching."
You'll recall that summit host Foundation for Excellence in Education, led by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican, partnered with former West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise, a Democrat, and his Alliance for Excellent Education to form Digital Learning Now, an organization devoted to getting states to lift what it saw as policy barriers preventing access to quality online education resources. A report issued by the group last November identified 10 policy challenges obstructing access to quality digital educational content, but it was criticized for not including enough input from teachers. Then-National Education Association Executive Director John I. Wilson termed the document "corporate."
Klein also received significant criticism from teachers' unions during his more-than-eight-year tenure as New York's schools chancellor, largely for a perceived over-reliance on test results to evaluate teacher performance. And the Murdoch-owned, conservative leaning Fox News Channel has been criticized by teacher advocates who say it depicts teachers' unions unfairly.
Murdoch's keynote is set for Oct. 14, a Friday, at a breakfast session at the summit. We'll see if it offers any more information about News Corp. Education's future.