The phone-hacking scandal that erupted over Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. in the United Kingdom last month took a new turn this week when the heads of the New York state and New York City teacher unions sent a letter demanding that the state controller and department of education throw out a $27 million no-bid contract pending with the News Corp. subsidiary Wireless Generation.
“We have become increasingly concerned with the proposed contract,” the union officials wrote. “It’s especially troubling that Wireless Generation will be tasked with creating a centralized database for personal student information even as its parent company stands accused of engaging in illegal news gathering tactics, including the hacking of private voice mail accounts.”
An official was quoted as saying the New York education department will stand by its recommendation to approve the contract. Officials in the office of the state Controller had no comment. The controller has until early September to approve or reject the Wireless Generation contract.
The two union leaders are only the latest to submit formal objections. Shortly after the scandal broke out in the United Kingdom, some educators and parents expressed dismay that Wireless Generation—which provides mobile and web software, data systems, and professional services that enable teachers to use data to assess student progress and deliver more personalized instruction—would have access to and handle sensitive student information.
A Change.org petition asking New York state and city education officials to cancel non-bid contracts awarded to Wireless Generation had 485 signatures as of press time. The petition was started by Class Size Matters, a nonprofit organization of parents and other citizens dedicated to achieving smaller classes in New York City and in the nation as a whole.
The wiretapping scandal plaguing Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. and his now-defunct News of the World has cast a dark cloud over the company’s other businesses—including Wireless Generation. Defenders of the ed-tech firm say it is unfair to draw comparisons between the News of the World cell-phone hacking scandal and U.S. education.