In the spring of 1972 John Lindsay, the Mayor of New York City was the golden boy, a liberal Republican with wide national appeal. He had kept the city “quiet” in an era of racial unrest and had taken on the powerful Al Shanker lead teacher’s union.
As he campaigned for the Republican designation in Miami a plane chugged across the beach trailing a banner: “Lindsay Must Go,” the retired parents of New York City teachers vigorously opposed John Lindsay. “Lindsay Must Go” lapel buttons were proudly displayed and the golden boy went down in flames. Al Shanker and those pesky teachers sank Lindsay’s race for the White House.
Years later Lindsay was the only person to refuse to participate in an oral history project recounting the origin and growth of the New York City teacher’s union.
As farfetched as it may seem Mike Bloomberg has his eyes on the White House and is a student of history. While he has carefully courted Randi Weingarten, Al Shanker reincarnate, his appointee Joel Klein has continually confronted Weingarten and her members.
In the battle for hearts and minds of New Yorkers Klein finds himself running a distant second. Opposition to Klein has united unions, teachers, parents and a host of community and advocacy organizations.
In the “good guy”/”bad guy” charade Bloomberg has negotiated two contracts that have driven teacher salaries over $100,000 while Klein seemed determined to force a teacher’s strike.
The latest dustup: Weighted School Funding, is a topic worthy of discussion. Rather than meet with the teacher’s union and their allies Klein simply confronted the public school community. His plan announced by ukase was fatally flawed.
This has not been a good school year for Joel. Bloomberg pulled the rug out from under him and negotiated an early contract with the teacher’s union: with no givebacks and a six digit salary maximum. In Albany Klein not only alienated the very legislators who will have to continue mayoral control but he saw all his initiatives die.
When you toss a stone in to a pond of feces you never know who’ll get splashed. As Mike nimbly navigates his path to a national platform Joel keeps tossing stones into that pond.
Can Klein survive? Can he keep hammering Weingarten, the teacher’s union, elected officials, parents: the public school community? Can Klein continue to force an endless array of confusing initiatives, alienating the very folk who consume his product? Can Mike court the public while Joel confronts them?
How many times will Mike have to bail out Joel?
Fears of “Mike Must Go” buttons are giving Bloomberg nightmares.
If Mike hopes to have a chance of raising his right hand on January 20th, 2009 it might be time to move Joel on to his next job.