Joel I. Klein became New York City schools chancellor in July 2002 after serving in the highest levels of government and business. As Chancellor, he oversees more than 1,500 schools with 1.1 million students, 136,000 employees, and a $21-billion operating budget.
When Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg appointed Mr. Klein, a graduate of New York City public schools, as the first Chancellor of the newly-reorganized Department of Education, he called the new Chancellor “a true leader who never shies away from the tough and sometimes controversial decisions that are necessary to implement change.”
Mr. Klein’s comprehensive education reform program, Children First, is transforming the nation's largest public school system into a system of great schools. The first steps of the reform effort included ending social promotion in third, fifth, seventh, and eighth grades; creating a wide array of academic supports for struggling students; establishing new supports for parents, including putting a parent coordinator in nearly every school; and expanding small schools and charter schools to provide more high-quality educational options for students. The second phase of Children First involved restructuring the system, changing how schools are operated and supported, and giving principals greater control over how they run their schools while holding them accountable for results. These initiatives have made a real difference for New York City students -- achievement is up, students and families have more and better choices, schools are safer, and principals are more empowered.
Before Mr. Klein became Chancellor, he was chairman and chief executive officer of Bertelsmann, Inc., and chief U.S. liaison officer to Bertelsmann AG from January 2001 to July 2002. Bertelsmann, one of the world’s largest media companies, has annual revenues exceeding $20 billion and employs more than 76,000 people in 54 countries.
From 1997 to 2001, Mr. Klein was assistant attorney general in charge of the U.S. Department of Justice’s antitrust division. Serving one of the longest tenures ever as head of the 700-lawyer division, Klein led landmark cases against Microsoft, WorldCom/Sprint, Visa/Mastercard, and General Electric, prevailing in a large majority of cases. Mr. Klein was widely credited with transforming the antitrust division into one of the Clinton Administration’s greatest successes. He also served as Acting Assistant Attorney General and as the antitrust division’s principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General. His appointment to the U.S. Justice Department came after Klein served two years (1993-95) as deputy counsel to President William J. Clinton.
Mr. Klein entered the Clinton administration after 20 years of public and private legal work in Washington, D.C. He began his career as a law clerk, first to Chief Judge David Bazelon on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (1973-74), and then to Justice Lewis Powell on the United States Supreme Court (1974-75). He next worked at a public interest law firm, the Mental Health Law Project (1975-76). For the following five years, he was an associate and partner at the law firm of Rogovin, Stern & Huge (1976-81).
Mr. Klein joined two colleagues to start their own law firm, Onek, Klein & Farr, in 1981. His practice focused heavily on healthcare and constitutional litigation. He also specialized in appellate advocacy, winning 9 out of 11 cases in which he argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. This work covered a wide range of substantive areas including antitrust law, health law, civil rights, statutory interpretation, and constitutional law.
Active in community service work, Mr. Klein has participated in Big Brothers, served as chairman of the board of the Green Door, a pioneer community-based treatment program for mentally ill residents of the District of Columbia, and as treasurer of the World Federation for Mental Health. He was a member of a U.S. Department of State delegation in 1991 to examine issues of psychiatric abuse in the Soviet Union. He has also served on the board of several non-profit organizations, including the National Symphony Orchestra Association.