The Mayor’s Philosphical Choices: Tea Party Intransigence or Old Time Deal-Making?

 Senators and representatives used to battle over issues, pound the table, passionate speeches and in time managed to hammer out some sort of a compromise. There was always the next bill, the next battle and a bipartisan spirit characterized relationships in Congress.

 
The political landscape has changed.
 
The Tea Party Republicans and their fellow travelers have adopted a “take no prisoners,” fight to the end regardless of the results stance. Up to now their harsh, tough, unyielding aggressiveness has resonated with voters. Democrats are divided, the left wings yearns for the a past era, the centrists still bemoan Hillary’s loss.
 
Bipartisanship has ebbed into history.
 
From Maine to Idaho, from Florida to Wisconsin Republican governors are attacking public employees and their unions, especially teachers. In Florida a new law removes tenure, rates teachers by student test scores, and forces teachers to work on yearly contracts. Teachers supported Obama in 2008 and usually support Democrats, Republicans see teachers as their enemy and in politics if you can destroy your enemy, so be it.
 
In New York City the teachers’ union and the Mayor continue to battle. The contract expired a year and half ago, schools are being closed at a rapid rate, over a thousand teachers work in temporary assignments (ATR pool) and the Mayor has introduced legislation to end seniority-based layoff rules. He threatens the loss of 6000 positions, over 4000 layoffs and drastic increases in class size.
 
The Mayor uses the threat of layoffs to coerce the legislature and the Governor: TV ads, a drumbeat of press releases and newspaper articles rain down from the media mogul Bloomberg’s empire. 
 
The Governor, in spite of $10 billions in budget reductions tells the Mayor that layoffs are not justified, the Mayor pushes back.
 
The Governor refuses to be bullied, Cuomo and former Mayor Koch reject seniority-based layoffs, but, will keep the current rules until the new Teacher Evaluation law is in place.
 
Next week the Governor’s budget will become law, in spite of glaring inequities in school funding.
 
The Tea Party mantra: budget cuts above all, regardless of the impact, invades the Cuomo game plan.
 
In the city the Mayor and UFT President Mulgrew stand toe to toe. They hurl TV commercials and verbal barbs. The teachers and their allies run demonstration after demonstration, thousands stand on street corners and hand out fliers and gather allies. The Mayor’s approval rating plummets.
 
The Mayor can take the Tea Party route and “take no prisoners,” cut 6000 positions and layoff 4000 plus teachers and blame the intransigence of the teacher union. Chaos would reign in September, bumping from school to schools, weeks of disruptions and anger.
 
The public and the opinion-makers would both pillory the union and blame the Mayor.
 
Does the Mayor want his legacy to be the disintegration of the school system and endless bickering with the public employee unions? Or, as the savior of a debt-ridden city?
 
Can the union afford to risk alienating the public and possible punitive legislation in Albany?
 
In the world of Tea Party Republicans layoffs are simply the casualties of a larger war. The destruction of the power of unions and the public school system could lead to a new, non-unionized, privatized school system. A system far less expensive operating in the marketplace that will determine which schools survive or fail.
 
Will Bloomberg choose the Tea Party path or  the old politics of bipartisanship?
 
Will he risk layoffs and try to capture the Michelle Bachmans of the right, or, become the replacement for Hillary in the middle of the Democratic party? Will the Mayor craft a “win-win” settlement that averts layoffs, ends the war with unions and move the city forward?
 
Can he convince the union to accept a limited pay freeze and in exchange for  the ending of the ATR pool and negotiate an implementation of the Evaluation Law that satisfies the fears of teachers?
 
Will Bloomberg cuddle up with Michelle or seize the mantel of Hillary? 
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2 responses to “The Mayor’s Philosphical Choices: Tea Party Intransigence or Old Time Deal-Making?

  1. Your final paragraph seems strange. What do we get in exchange for the wage
    freeze? How does the proposed Evaluation System allay the fears of teachers? How does giving up the ATR pool benefit us unless those teachers are assigned (most are working full time in schools anyway)?

    You seem to be setting us up for another lousy deal, as was done with the implementation of Tier 5 in exchange for ever more vicious attacks on us.

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  2. Jackie Foil Retired

    My children and I are products of the NYC school system. Something we could all be proud. It was a mark of honor throughout the country say you went to a NYC school.
    I taught in NYC city schools in Brooklyn until I retired in 1991, During that time the “powers that be” tried to erode the quality of the schools and its reputation – local school boards, and principals who attained their positions, not by merit, but by favoritism.
    Bloomberg seems to want to “put the last nail in the coffin” with all of the proposals you listed.
    Instead of only evaluating teachers by the students outcomes. How about going back to testing them before they even enter the system.
    For some of you, I know, I’m just “preaching to the choir”.
    This just allowed me to “let off some steam”.
    My hope for the future of NYC is that we attract and keep good teachers. Allow them to be the professionals they want to be.

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