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I am a prize-winning author and journalist with over 20 years of experience specializing in health care, retirement issues, and the nexus between business and public policy. I write regularly for The New York Times, Newsday, The Scientist, Institutional Investor, and more

Sheldon Silver Saved My Son’s School. Now I Know How It Feels To Live in China

The New York Times, Jan. 24, 2015


In the early 2000s, a group of parents and staff started an unusual new K-12 school in Manhattan called NEST+m. It was a gifted/talented school specializing in math, technology, and science, with some unusual touches including ultra-small classes, uniforms, and some separation of girls and boys. The parents raised tens of thousands of dollars to renovate a rundown building. And it worked: NEST students regularly scored at the top of all standardized tests. Then in 2006 along came Courtney Ross, widow of Time Warner CEO Steve Ross, marching through the building with her good buddy, then-NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein (now a Rupert Murdoch flunky), and as she pointed to the most beautifully renovated rooms, she declared, “I’ll take that one and that one and that one.” She planned to steal half of NEST for a charter school to be named (humbly) The Ross School. Luckily, NEST is in the district of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, an opponent of union-busting charter schools, who promptly told Mayor Bloomberg that Ms. Ross couldn’t have her pretty building. Yes, it’s a small example of the kind of arbitrary power-flexing that has run Albany behind closed doors for too long — that is typical of authoritarian places like China  as well as old Tammany Hall — and that can lead to corruption. Today, Silver is under arrest for taking millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks. (To my knowledge, no payoffs were involved in the NEST situation.) But Courtney Ross was flexing her power, too. At least voters and prosecutor can stop the alleged Sheldon Silvers of the world. Who stops the Courtney Rosses?


From the other side: Check out my book reviews for The National at http://www.thenational.ae/featured-content/search?searchKey=Fran+Hawthorne&choice=true&pageNumber=1 and The New York Journal of Books at http://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/search/apachesolr_search/Fran%20Hawthorne

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