There are seven candidates running or considering a run for the Mayor of New York City. In the week of the new Common Core state standardized tests let me pose a new state exam-type question:
(1) Write an evidence-based essay explaining the education policies of the candidates, and
(2) Write a persuasive essay supporting one of the candidates that includes specific information from candidate’s written or spoken positions.
You may not end up with a Level 4 score!!
The two Republican candidates, Lhota (“Lhota backs Merit Pay“) and Casamitides have mumbled a few words about supporting current policies and the four Democrats (Quinn, Thompson, Liu and De Blasio), and maybe five (Weiner) are pretty indistinguishable.
Quinn actually laid out her plans in a speech at the New School University (see speech here). Liu issued a Report on Digital Literacy and favors a screening panel to vet candidates for the PEP, the Panel for Education Policy. William Thompson, who served two terms as Comptroller and as President of the Board of Education in the 90s, issued a policy paper during his 2009 run. Bill De Blasio favors a millionaires tax to funds universal Pre-K and opposes co-locations.
I would posit that the Democratic candidates all support each other’s statements on education.
One wag commented that if you ask a Democratic candidate a specific education question their response would be: “What does Mulgrew think about it?”
The Republican candidate’s education policy is, “If it’s OK with Mike it’s OK with us,” and the four Democrats are stumbling to get the UFT endorsement.
At the April 17th Delegate Assembly meeting a block of time will be set apart for a “speak out,” an opportunity for delegates to vent, persuade, attack, advocate for whomever or whatever.
The UFT has a number of choices:
* Should the UFT endorse any candidate prior to the September 10th primary, and, if so, which candidate?
* Should the UFT wait until after September 10th and endorse in a runoff, if there is a runoff?
* Should the UFT wait until there is a Democratic candidate and then endorse?
If the 150,000 members of the UFT enthusiastically endorse and the union gets the troops into the streets they are a potent force, UFT members live in every borough and in every neighborhood, teachers and paraprofessionals and over 20,000 childcare workers.
UFTers manning phone banks, handing out flyers, knocking on doors, encouraging relatives and friends, clearly the candidates are wooing the most powerful force in the election.
The UFT faces a difficult conundrum: Can the union agree on a candidate and fight to elect their endorsee or, will members each go their own way and campaign for whomever regardless of the choice of their union?
In straw votes at union meetings most of the attendees don’t support any candidate – no one has emerged. At this point Chris Quinn is a heavy lift – many teachers hold her responsible for abrogating the two-term limit and allowing Bloomberg to serve a third term, on the other hand, she prevented 7,000 teacher layoffs in her role as leader of the City Council.
The September 10th primary is five months away with the general seven months away – an eternity in politics. Who knows the number of electeds who will be indicted in the meantime? What scandals will emerge? Will negative ads sink the frontrunners?
In the last few days Quinn has slipped in the polls,
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s poll numbers are down following a barrage of criticism in recent weeks — and coinciding with the apparent re-emergence of former mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner.
Quinn’s share of the Democratic vote now stands at 32 percent, according to the latest Quinnipiac poll — a five-month low and a significant dip from late February when 37 percent of voters polled said Quinn was their top pick.
Nonetheless, Quinn remains far ahead of her Democratic rivals, including Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, with 14 percent, Bill Thompson with 13 percent, and City Comptroller John Liu with 7 percent of the vote.
And, as the candidates wrestle for relevancy, try to present themselves to the voting public, carve out a space apart from their opponents, other candidates might jump in. The Democrats are jabbing at other each and every day with the distinct possibility that the final two will need a runoff a few weeks after the primary. An exhausted Democratic winner, hammered for months by his/her opponents, short on cash may face a yet to emerge Republican with deep pockets unscathed by months of attacks – remember 2001.
I was speaking with a Democratic strategist: “Getting in early allows you to set the policies of the winner, and risks picking a loser and alienating the eventual winner, on the other hand remaining on the sidelines is akin to ‘kissing your sister,’ satisfying no one.”
The UFT has a hard decision, and, there is nothing to be gained by rushing into the fray. More important is assuring that the membership is totally on board with the eventual decision.