Voters are not too happy with Bloomberg's role in the schools, for one thing. The city has mayoral control of education, so he appoints the school board. That means that Bloomberg owns education as an issue. He even owns mayoral control itself, which was instituted in 2002 at his urging, making him the only New York City mayor to have had such a large role in the city's education policy. And a new poll from Quinnipiac finds that a strong majority of voters wants to move away from mayoral control: 63 percent want the the mayor to share control of the schools and 13 percent say the mayor shouldn't have any control, while just 18 percent say the mayor should keep control. That's in sharp contrast to 2009, when 55 percent of voters wanted mayoral control to continue.
It's not just that voters don't want the mayor in sole control of the schools, either. The recent Quinnipiac poll also finds that:
By a 53 - 35 percent margin, voter trust the teachers' union more than Bloomberg to protect the interests of public school students.That's both a judgment on Bloomberg's recent actions against teachers and the context in which the current fights are playing out. And a big fight came to a head this week, centering on teacher evaluations.
Thursday was the deadline for the city and the union to reach an agreement on a teacher evaluation plan in order to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in state education funding, but the negotiations failed. The head of the teachers union said that the union had reached an agreement with Department of Education negotiators, only to have Bloomberg kill the deal. Bloomberg, unsurprisingly, blamed the union, but head below the fold to see how his key reason for doing so crumbles when you poke it.
Bloomberg says that the union's supposedly last-minute insistence that the new evaluation system sunset in 2015 would make the entire evaluation process "a joke," because "Nobody would ever be able to be removed. The law would be gone before the process could finish. It would essentially sabotage the entire agreement." But if that's the case, then about 90 percent of the school districts in the state of New York that adopted teacher evaluation plans have "joke" and "sabotaged" plans, because that's how many of them sunset after a similar length of time.
And there are good reasons for them to do that—and good reason to question Bloomberg's insistence that the union pushed the sunset provision as a way to kill the deal. UFT negotiator Leo Casey writes:
On the very last line of this section of the draft application, the DOE itself had written that the agreement would only last through the 2013-2014 school year. The preponderance of applications from school districts around New York approved had similar sunset clauses: given the sheer complexity of the new teacher evaluation systems required by New York State law, they reasoned that it was only prudent to revisit their implementation in a year or two. All of these applications have been approved by the New York State Education Department.Michael Bloomberg wants New Yorkers to believe that the teachers union cost the city's schools hundreds of millions of dollars by killing an agreement with a last-minute demand for a provision that would render the entire evaluation system toothless. But Bloomberg is standing basically alone in describing the sunset provision that way. He's basically saying that we should take his word over the union, a draft application from his own Department of Education, and the New York State Education Department along with the 90 percent of districts including a similar provision in their evaluation plans. That's how arrogant, and how accustomed to having the media accept his claims without serious questions, Michael Bloomberg is.
What's more, he expects to get people to blame the teachers union for this at the same time as he killed an agreement for principal evaluation over the same issue. And at the same time as 8,000 of the city's school bus drivers and attendants are on strike because Bloomberg refused to try to build any kind of protections for them into a bidding process for companies to take over many bus routes, particularly ones that service special education students.
Bloomberg's goal in the school bus strike is to blame the workers for wanting to maintain their lavish pay, which starts at $11 an hour for matrons and $14 an hour for drivers. What New Yorkers aren't supposed to notice is that it's Bloomberg's own policies contributing to rising costs. Bloomberg has pushed for more and more charter schools, for instance, and "Some 20% of charter students ride school buses, compared to just 9% of regular public school kids, according to one Independent Budget Office estimate." Additionally, special education students, many of whom go outside the city to school, account for an overwhelming amount of the cost of busing, and:
Bus union president Mike Cordiello says many routes are so ineptly configured by Tweed bureaucrats that his members run 186 routes daily to Westchester County, most of them with 6 children or less per bus. There are 25 buses per day to New Jersey, 16 to Rockland County, several to Connecticut.But as usual, Bloomberg's solutions target workers.
Michael Bloomberg has pushed for and gotten more and more control in his own hands. But that's not enough for him. On top of it, he's trying to break anyone who might ever challenge his power, trying to make it easier to fire teachers and bus drivers, trying to erase the voices of people who work every day with children. New Yorkers aren't going for it, but that doesn't mean Bloomberg can't damage the cause of public education.