Kennedy and Klein, Charter Champions

Caroline Kennedy made a rare public appearance this afternoon to join former schools chief Joel Klein at a reception at the midtown hotspot Monkey Bar and to preach the virtues of charter schools.

The luncheon was a benefit for Public Prep Network, a charter school organization comprising two all-girl schools in the Lower East Side and a third in the Bronx. 

A well-heeled crowd of socialites, financiers and donors who, in the words of a Public Prep Network representative, “would put their kids in private schools but understand the importance of having an alternative,” enjoyed a lunch of lobster salad, followed by a choice of salmon or risotto at table that bore thank you cards written in the unmistableable scrawl of school children.

“We sit here at the Monkey Bar, and we are really some of the most fortunate and privileged people in this country,” said Klein, formerly the chancellor of New York City schools. “But think about what it would be like if your life was a dead end life and your kid was in a dead end school.”

Public Prep Network CEO Ian Rowe in an introduction to Klein, said that he hoped to find some more “lifelong supporters” in the audience, then called out current corporate sponsors Barclay’s Capital, Blackstone Charitable Foundation, Brown Brothers Harriman and Carter Ledyard & Milburn.

Klein noted that the last eight years had seen an outpouring of nearly $500 million in philanthropic support for charters, praising Caroline Kennedy for “helping to fashion the public-private partnerships that I think are essential to transforming education.”

He had little tolerance for what he dubbed the “political and union circumstance” that conspired to block the expansion of places like Public Prep Network at expense of parents and students. During his time as chancellor, Klein was criticized for his aggressive support of charter expansion, which some parents and educators said came at the expense of public schools.

Kennedy credited Klein in her keynote address with recruiting her as a proponent for charters, and for once calling a snow day when her son hadn’t finished his homework. She invoked her father’s nearly half-century old call to service in calling on the audience to lend a hand.

“It’s becoming clear to everyone that cities and countries with educated and empowered women are healthier, smarter and more prosperous,” Kennedy said. “That’s the change that your students are going to bring into the wider world, and in this economy we need each other. Schools are no different. They need outside energy to break through the isolation of poverty.” Kennedy and Klein, Charter Champions