Bloomberg, Schools, and Joel Klein

I spent my two days of email vacation at the National Venture Capital Association Annual Meeting which was here in NYC this week.

I saw a lot of people that I hadn’t seen in a while and that was really good.  But the program put me to sleep for the most part.  Until after lunch today.  For some reason, they invited MIke Bloomberg and Joel Klein to address the meeting this afternoon. It was the highlight of the meeting for me.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. Mike Bloomberg is my kind of republican. If there were more like him, I’d be one too.  He is smart, experienced, pragmatic, and refreshingly unpolitical.  I feel really good about having him as the mayor of my city.

Mike was there to talk about education reform and to introduce his agent of reform, Joel Klein.  To be honest, Mike has staked his reputation and his tenure in office on the issue of public school reform. It’s a bet very few politicians would have made. How can anyone fix something that so fundamentally broken as urban public shool systems?

StoryvertjoelkleinapTo start, he put someone other than a career educator in the position of chancellor.  And based on what I heard today, that was a very smart move.

Joel Klein has an interesting resume. He is best known for taking on Bill Gates in the Clinton Administration’s effort to take down Microsoft’s monopoly in PC software. He was ultimately fairly unsucessful in that effort, but the case certainly brought Microsoft to the table and has caused what appears to be a permanent sensitivity in Redmond about crushing competition.

After that, he ran Bertelsmann USA for a while before being tapped by Bloomberg to run the NYC School System.

Klein was really impressive in his remarks today.  He understands that he has to radically reform the public school system.  He understands that the culture of lifetime employment, compensation based on time served instead of performance, and the cushiest jobs for the best people is dead wrong.  As he said to the VCs in the audience, "would you invest in a company with this kind of culture?"  The answer was no, of course.

Klein, and his fundraiser, Caroline Kennedy, have raised over $200 million in private money to fund initiatives like an academy to train principals, incentive comp for school supervisors, a best practices initiative for charter schools, and more, that would be non starters for the budget process.

He is betting that Bloomberg will get re-elected and that he’ll have eight years to work his reforms.  I think that’s a good bet.  And based on what I heard today, I would be willing to bet that the results of his eight year tenure will be pretty good.

As significant investors in his business (via our real estate taxes) I sure hope he’s successful, because until now, our investment has been mostly going down the drain.