After surprising many by announcing Hearst publishing chairwoman Cathie Black was his pick to be the next Schools Chancellor, Mayor Bloomberg has been hearing lots of complaints from critics who pointed to her lack of experience in the education arena (hell, she and her kids went to private schools) to run the nation's largest school system. Today, the mayor fired back on John Gambling's radio show, "It just goes to show they have no understanding whatsoever of what the job is...This is a management job, John. It's 135,000 employeess, it's $23 billion of the public's money and 1.1. million kids that we have to get services to. We have a phenomenally competent team of education professionals that have been built up over the years. The real problem is how do you take all this money and all these people and all the needs and get them all together. And Cathie Black has all the experience necessary."

Bloomberg also said, "People that we've talked to, people are just amazed that two things. One, they think it's a great choice out of the box. I'll take credit for that. But they just, some have so much admiration for Cathie in terms of being willing to walk away from what I assume was a very lucrative but certainly very prestigious and important job with one of the great companies in the world, and take on what we've seen with Joel is a very tough, competitive job."

Black said, "I have no illusion about this being an easy next three years — quite the opposite. But what I ask for is your patience, as I get up to speed on the issues facing K-12 education," but the NY Times reports:

There will be no cushy learning period for Ms. Black. She will be entering a treacherous political and educational landscape, far darker than it was just one year ago, when elementary and middle school test scores told a story of continual growth and achievements. Now, more than 100,000 additional students who failed toughened state tests this year need tutoring and help. Up to 47 schools face closing. The teachers’ union, which has been without a contract for more than a year, has been more adversarial toward the city than supportive, a relationship that promises to sour further if the Department of Education continues to back the public release of teacher rankings based on student test scores.

Black also told Cindy Adams that Bloomberg called her out of the blue and offered her the job.