This past Sunday’s New York Times Magazine featured a conversation about education philanthropy with several education and charity experts. Among them was Joel Klein, who has been chancellor of the New York City school system since 2002. Klein also figures prominently in the D.C. education world since he recommended District chancellor Michelle Rhee for her job. Apparently, he’s still standing behind his selection because he mentioned her in the Times piece. The premise of the conversation is to discuss how an ignorant, but benevolent billionaire could properly invest his money in education.
“I would look for the most promising individuals and make heavy investments in them. Let’s say you choose Michelle Rhee, the new schools chancellor in D.C. That school system has long been one of the worst-performing in the country, and Michelle wants to really overhaul it. I think our philanthropist could make an eight-year bet on her. It’s the same kind of thing I would have wanted to have happen to us when we started six years ago in New York. To start, I’d give her a couple of million to do some planning. Then I’d ask her to sit down and show me what strategic investments she thinks a philanthropist could make in D.C. that the system itself, for whatever reason, is not going to make. And I would try to make three or four of these strategic bets around the country, on individuals who I thought had the talent, the longevity and the political support to make significant change feasible.”