Saturday, August 06, 2011

Murdoch's Education Ventures Go Forward With The Help Of Politicians On His Payroll

The Independent reports today that Rupert Murdoch is going ahead with his plans to create a News International-sponsored academy school near his newspaper headquarters in east London despite the hacking and political corruption scandal that is embroiling his company, News Corporation.

The hacking scandal has seen 11 former News International employees arrested on a variety of charges, from phone hacking to conspiracy, including the former News of the World editor and News International chief Rebekah Brooks and one of British Prime Minister's David Cameron's former top aides and former editor at News of the World, Andy Coulson.

News International is the British subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.

News International employees have been accused of hacking into the phones of murder victims, murder victims' family members, 7/7 terrorism victims and their families, celebrities, politicians and members of the Royal Family, bribing the police for information, and conspiring with police and political officials to cover-up the scandal and sidetrack any official investigations into the matter.

The scandal has led to the shuttering of the newspaper at the center of the hacking allegations, the 168-year old News of the World, as well as the withdrawal of News Corporation's bid to take over shares of the British satellite network BSkyB that are not already owned by News Corp.

The nexus between News International criminal activity, News International employees, politicians and police in this scandal has been getting special scrutiny since former News International employee Andy Coulson was forced to resign from his government position earlier in the year as a result of the scandal and since allegations came to light that current or former Murdoch employees hired by the police may have helped quell past investigations into the hacking scandal.

Top officials at Scotland Yard have resigned in the wake of these allegations.

But neither Murdoch nor the political establishment seem disturbed enough by the scandal to put a temporary halt on Murdoch's education moves.

The news about the Murdoch-sponsored academy in Britain is just the latest example of a Murdoch move into the education sphere and he is doing these moves with the help of politicians either currently on his payroll or formerly on it.

For example, former News International employee and now British Education Secretary, Michael Gove, has met with News Corp. executives at least 21 times since the last election, more than any other member of the British government, including six times with Rupert Murdoch himself.

Gove, a corporate education reform advocate with close ties to another Murdoch employee, former New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, has called for a radical overhaul of education in Britain, comparing his reform efforts to Chairman Mao's Long March.

Gove's plans include starting networks of "free schools," which will be similar to charter schools here in the U.S., that will be free from many of the rules schools in Britain have to abide by as well as a radical shift in the school curriculum and an increased emphasis on testing. Gove has also pushed for a ten hour school day and half day school on Saturdays, though the extended hours would not be compulsory.

Gove had a three day series of meetings with Joel Klein on the free schools issue earlier this year. Like Klein, Gove is also a proponent of technology education and hopes to digitize many of Britain's classrooms in the near future for online instruction and education.

Rupert Murdoch himself said he sees online education and instruction as a $500 billion dollar profit sector in the near future and has bought a U.S. company that provides the kind of software and technology that is used for online education, Wireless Generation.

Former New York City Schools Chancellor Klein signed a no-bid contract with Wireless Generation for a few million dollars when he was running the NYC school system.

Klein went to work for Rupert Murdoch after he resigned his chancellorship. Two weeks later, Murdoch purchased Wireless Generation and put Klein in charge of running the News Corporation K-12 online education division, which includes Wireless Generation.

Wireless Generation has since been given a no-bid contract by the NY State Education Department worth $27 million dollars.

That contract is under scrutiny, as 16 other companies tried to bid for the contract but NYSED officials claimed there was no time to bid out the contract competitively, as they were under a deadline for Race to the Top funds.

The Daily News has reported this was not so, that the timeline would have allowed for competitive bidding but that the NYSED decided not to take any competitive bids for the contract

This week the United Federation of Teachers and the New York State Union of Teachers called for the Wireless Generation contract to be voided, citing concerns over the News International hacking scandal in Britain.

Which brings me back full circle to the Independent article about the Murdoch-sponsored free school in Britain that will focus on technology education.

It is apparent that Murdoch, with the help of former political operatives now on his payroll, like Joel Klein or former Murdoch employees now working in the public sector, like Michael Gove, is intent on creating a public/private education system with an emphasis on technology and online instruction, then carving out a substantial part of that sector for News Corp profit-taking.

As he said himself, he expects to make billions off such a partnership even as his own media outlets like the NY Post and the Wall Street Journal call for more technology-friendly reforms from their editorial pages that will ultimately make News Corporation more profitable.

That Murdoch and his minions like Gove and Klein are getting away with this even as the News International hacking scandal continues to grow is disturbing.

An official British inquiry team into the scandal led by Justice Brian Leveson has begun an investigation that is expected to take a year to look into the matters.

Here in the United States, the FBI has opened an investigation into whether News Corporation employees or their British counterparts at News International hacked into the phones of 9/11 victims and their families.

Murdoch announced his own internal News Corp. investigation led by Joel Klein, the man who prepped Rupert Murdoch and his son, James, for their July appearance before a Parliament committee.

Klein reports to another Murdoch employee and News Corporation board member, Viet Dinh, for this investigation, but the internal News Corp. probe has been widely criticized as compromised since men very close to Rupert Murdoch are leading it.

Questions of a continued Murdoch cover-up surfaced when news broke that Murdoch has given employees fired as a result of the News of the World closure raises and bonuses, a move that sounds very much like bribery to keep possibly disgruntled employees quiet about the hacking scandal.

In addition, James Murdoch has been accused of lying before Parliament about his knowledge of the phone hacking scandal and News International payoffs to victims of the hacking by two former high level News International employees, lawyer Tom Crone and former News of the World editor Colin Myler.

Murdoch paid out a 700,000 GBP payment to News International hacking victim Gordon Taylor, but claimed he was only doing so on the advice of Crone and Myler and did not know the reason for the payout.

The statement seems absurd on the face of it (who hands out $1.2 million as a payout without knowing why?) and Crone and Myler are now stating that openly.

So the Murdoch hacking scandal, while at a low level now with Parliament on recess, is not even close to being over.

Many more allegations and disclosures are to come and the scandal may still bring down both James Murdoch and his father, Rupert.

For governments in either the United States or Britain to do education business with News Corp. or News International while this scandal continues to break is disgusting and hypocritical.

But given that so many in the governments of both Britain and the United States are either on the Murdoch payroll, used to be on the Murdoch payroll, or want to be on the Murdoch payroll in the future, I suppose it is not a surprise that Murdoch is continuing with his education ventures unimpeded.

Men like Joel Klein and Michael Gove have shown their allegiance is to Rupert Murdoch and News Corporation, not to children or the public or public education, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised when many other people in the political establishment feel the same way.

In Britain, that means the Cameron government.

In America, that means the Bloomberg administration, the Cuomo administration, the New York State Education Department and the Regents, and even the Obama administration's USDOE.

It seems that short of murder itself, there is nothing that Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch or News Corporation employees can do that would get the political establishment to bar them from doing business in the public education system.

But who knows?

Given the severity of the hacking scandal already, with News International employees hacking into a murdered teenager's phone and erasing messages, with News International employees hacking into the phone of the mother of another girl murdered - a phone that News International gave her - and with allegations that News International employees hacked into the phones of 7/7 and 9/11 terrorism victims, the investigation may just yet turn up a body or two as well.
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