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Rupert and Wendi Murdoch backed a scandal-ridden city school

Besides his Joel Klein hire, his company’s $27 million state contract, and his entrance into education politics, there’s another schools angle to Rupert Murdoch, the embattled media tycoon.

Long before Murdoch’s News Corporation was accused of employing illegal news-gathering strategies, Murdoch and his wife, Wendi Deng Murdoch, were supporters of the Shuang Wen School. The Chinatown dual-language school was revealed last year to be illegally charging families for mandatory Chinese instruction.

In 2004, the Murdochs pledged three years of financial support for Shuang Wen’s after school programs, according to an article published in a city’s Chinese language paper at the time. That pledge amounted to half a million dollars, the Grand Street News later reported. In 2008, Murdoch praised the school during a lecture delivered in Australia.

Shuang Wen’s longtime principal, Ling Ling Chou, was removed several weeks ago under cloud of at least nine separate investigations into the school. Her interim replacement, Iris Chiu, has not received a warm welcome: Shuang Wen parents are defending Chou and fighting against the DOE’s investigations and oversight. They have filed a lawsuit alleging that discrimination is behind the city’s scrutiny, and some say they might withdraw their children in protest.

Wendi Murdoch’s relationship with the city schools extends beyond Shuang Wen. Until at least last year, she was a board member of the Fund for Public Schools, the Department of Education’s private fundraising arm. It’s unclear whether her tenure on the board began before or after Rupert Murdoch approached fund vice-chair Caroline Kennedy for help getting Grace, his oldest daughter with Wendi, into the private Brearley School.

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