New York’s comptroller has spiked a $27 million contract with an education software firm owned by Rupert Murdoch because of the media mogul’s phone hacking scandal in Great Britain.
The New York Daily News reports that state comptroller Thomas DiNapoli last week rejected a state Education Department contract with Wireless Generation, a News Corp. affiliate.
Wireless Generation was to get $27 million of the state’s $700 million in federal Race to the Top money to develop software that would track students’ test scores.
News Corp.’s British tabloid News of the World was shut down last month amid the phone hacking and police bribery scandal. Besides the scandal, DiNapoli’s office also said there was an incomplete record about the company’s qualifications.
Jonathan Burman, an education department spokesman, told the Daily News that DiNapoli bowed to pressure from teachers’ unions.
Some New York educators and parents had 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.
For its part, Wireless Generation said it’s unfair to draw comparisons between the News of the World cell-phone hacking scandal and its own business.
Class Size Matters, a nonprofit organization of parents and other citizens dedicated to achieving smaller classes in New York City and elsewhere, started an online petition asking New York state and city officials to cancel the no-bid contracts awarded to Wireless Generation.
And the heads of the New York state and city teachers’ unions also sent a letter to state officials urging that Wireless Generation’s contract be revoked.
“We have become increasingly concerned with the proposed contract,” the letter read. “It is especially troubling that Wireless Generation will be tasked with creating a centralized student database for personal information even as its parent company, News Corporation, stands accused of engaging in illegal news gathering tactics, including the hacking of private voice mail accounts.”
News Corp. faces a host of financial and legal challenges as allegations of cell-phone hacking and police bribery come to light.
One report charges that News of the World tabloid reporters hacked into the cell phone of a kidnapped girl before police learned of and could confirm that the girl was murdered. British lawmakers also have questioned London police about reports that officers took bribes from journalists to provide inside information for tabloid scoops.
In the United States, the FBI is conducting a preliminary inquiry into an allegation that News of the World journalists sought to hack into the phones of 9/11 victims.