Joel Klein

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.

Joel Klein
Joel Klein.JPG
New York City Schools Chancellor
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
Deputy White House Counsel
In office
July 1993 – March 1995
PresidentBill Clinton
Preceded byVince Foster
Succeeded byJames Castello
Personal details
Born (1946-10-25) October 25, 1946 (age 74)
New York City, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Nicole Seligman
EducationColumbia University (BA)
Harvard University (JD)

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 educationEdit

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 J.D. degree from Harvard Law School, again graduating magna cum laude, in 1971. He then clerked for Chief Judge David L. 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, DC, 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 specialized in constitutional and health-care.[4] After working there for a year, he went into private practice, working for five years before founding a 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 was appointed United States Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division, and 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 Chicago Public Schools, Arne Duncan, then to New York State Education Commissioner John King Jr.

New York City School ChancellorEdit

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, speaking about the national movement for smaller schools, stated in 2008, that “Simply breaking up existing schools into smaller units often did not generate the gains we were hoping for.”.[13] A series of analyses by the research institute MDRC found that the "Small Schools of Choice" (SSC) had "marked increases in progress toward graduation and in graduation rates" for three successive cohorts of students analyzed (students who entered the SSCs in 2005, 2006, and 2007) compared with other schools, including students of color, compared with students of color at similar schools.[14] (Small Schools of Choice are academically non-selective, small in size, and were structured to be a reasonable choice for students of varying academic backgrounds.)[15]

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.[16][17] 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.[18]

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."[19] The program's creator Mark Willner stated that (Khalidi) "spoke on geography and demography," and that "There was nothing controversial, nothing political."[19]

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.[20][21]

In 2007, the Klein launched a major redesign of the formula used to fund schools. Previously, funding for teachers had been based on the salaries of the teachers in the building, leading to more funding for schools in schools with students from more affluent backgrounds, as teachers tended to stay at those schools longer (and be relatively better paid than teachers with less experience). Under Klein's "Fair Student Funding" program, schools were given amounts of money based on the enrollment and demographics of students, such as special education and low-income. This eventually accounted for 66% of all funding to schools.[22] [23]

During the Bloomberg Administration, whose educational legacy was largely determined by Klein's chancellorship, graduation rates in New York City went up for all ethnic groups, although the gap between graduation rates between ethnic groups remained stubbornly persistent. From 2005-2012, the graduation rate for white students rose from 64% to 78%, for Asian-American students from 63% to 82%, and for Black students from 40% to 60%.[24] Overall, high school graduation rates increased from 54% in 2004 to almost 75% in 2013. [25]

News CorporationEdit

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.[26] He was replaced by Cathie Black, chairman of Hearst Magazines and former president of USA Today, on January 3, 2011.[27]

On July 6, 2011, Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corporation[28] 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.[29] Klein and fellow director Viet D. Dinh took over the investigation 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.[30]

Since joining News Corp, Klein has recruited at least two other executives from the New York City Department of Education. In February 2011, NYCDoE Communications Director Natalie Ravitz announced that she would be joining News Corp as Klein's chief of staff. According to GothamSchools, 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."[31]

Oscar Health and Juul LabsEdit

In 2016, Klein became a “top executive” with New York health insurance start-up Oscar Health, which has a focus on technology.[32] In 2021, while still at Oscar, Klein joined the board of Juul Labs, a tobacco company.[33]

Personal lifeEdit

Klein is married to Nicole Seligman, general counsel to Howard Stringer of Sony Corp.[34] Seligman was on the legal team of then-President Bill Clinton during impeachment proceedings in the United States Senate.[35]


  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 from the original on February 15, 2008.
  6. ^ Murray, Shailagh (November 5, 2008). "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 November 14, 2008.
  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). the City of New York. August 5, 2008. Retrieved November 14, 2008.
  10. ^ Melinda Gates goes public
  11. ^ Matthews, Karen (June 6, 2010). "Small schools up graduation rates for struggling NYC kids". USA Today. Associated Press.
  12. ^ Strauss, Valerie (October 23, 2014). "All the hallelujahs about small schools in New York – real or hype?". Washington Post.
  13. ^ Herbert, Bob (October 6, 2014). "In the Arena: The Plot Against Public Education: How Millionaires and Billionaires Are Ruining Our Schools". Politico.
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Key N.Y.C. School Official Forced to Resign," Education Week.
  17. ^ "Schools' Top Lawyer Quits In Uproar Over Nepotism," The New York Times.
  18. ^ "Ed. Flap Lawyer Resigns – Accused Of Cover-Up," The New York Post.
  19. ^ a b Purnick, Joyse (February 28, 2005). "Some Limits on Speech in Classrooms". Metro Matters. The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-12.
  20. ^ Chapman, Ben (November 16, 2014). "City schools dumping $95 million computer system for tracking student data". New York Daily News.
  21. ^ Mathis-Lilley, Ben (November 17, 2014). "New York Is Eliminating Data System Championed by Education Reformer Joel Klein". Slate.
  22. ^
  23. ^ "Bloomberg's Education Plan is Working: Don't Ditch It". 22 October 2013.
  24. ^ "Bloomberg's Education Plan is Working: Don't Ditch It". 22 October 2013.
  25. ^ "A Quick Study on Mike Bloomberg's Education Record as Mayor". 26 February 2020.
  26. ^ Newman, Andy (November 9, 2010). "Hearst Official to Replace Klein at Helm of City Schools". The New York Times.
  27. ^ "Cathie Black Set to Start Monday as New York City Schools Chancellor". CBS New York. CBS. 2 January 2011. Retrieved March 8, 2017.
  28. ^ Bowley, Graham (July 8, 2011). "A Murdoch Loyalist Hangs On, Raising Questions About a Corporate Strategy". The New York Times. Retrieved July 9, 2011.
  29. ^ "Rupert Murdoch backs Rebekah Brooks over phone-hacking allegations". 6 July 2011.
  30. ^ Doward, Jamie; Helm, Toby; et al. (July 9, 2011). "Phone-hacking scandal: Is this the tipping point for Murdoch's empire?". The Guardian. Retrieved December 7, 2011.
  31. ^ Cramer, Philissa (January 31, 2012). "DOE's press chief leaving to become Rupert Murdoch's top aide". GothamSchools. Retrieved January 31, 2012.
  32. ^ Otterman, Sharon (January 15, 2016). "Joel Klein, Ex-New York Schools Chancellor, to Join Health Insurance Start-up". The New York Times. Retrieved March 3, 2019.
  33. ^ Livingston, Shelby. "A top exec at upstart health insurer Oscar just joined the board of vape company Juul". Business Insider. Retrieved 2021-04-02.
  34. ^ New York Times: "In a Most Private Kennedy, a Lure of Public Duty" By DEBORAH SONTAG January 18, 2009
  35. ^ Marcus, Ruth. "Clinton's Least-Known Lawyer". Washington Post. Retrieved 13 April 2021.

External linksEdit

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