At one of the UFT mayoral forums, there have been four forums sponsored by the union, the moderator asked a question, the candidate hesitated, the moderator asked, “Do you want the ‘right’ answer?”
Teachers in the audience were waiting to hear the “right answers” and the candidates, for the most part, were anxious to satisfy the audience.
There is a thin line between explaining education policy and pandering
The last question at the forum was, “What is your path to victory?” and all the candidates answered, “Get the UFT endorsement.”
And there, in the words of the bard, lies the rub, will the candidates say anything to satisfy union members?
The answer, probably yes,
If the candidate with all the “right answers” is elected, can s/he carry out their promises?
All the candidates are strongly opposed to high-stakes testing, however, the 2002 federal law, No Child Left Behind (NCLB), requires annual English/Math tests in grades 3-8, in addition, NCLB requires identifying Persistently Lowest Achieving (PLA) schools and putting a plan in place: turnaround, transformation, conversion to charter or closing. New York State is one of the 46 states to sign on to implement the Common Core, as a member of one of the national consortia, PARCC, New York State is rapidly moving to put the far more rigorous Common Core PARCC assessments in place.
The New York City mayor has no role.
S/he could use the position of mayor as a bully pulpit to speak out against the Commmon Core assessments, to challenge the Regents, the Commissioner and the Governor; s/he cannot make any changes in current policies.
Lower Class Size:
Lowering class size costs money, each reduction of one student per class translates in many tens of millions of dollars – if the new mayor can identify “new” dollars should reduced class size be at the top of the list? Should lower class size target early childhood grades or/and high poverty/low achieving middle schools? How would the new mayor balance class size reductions and teacher raises?
Once again, an easy promise, tough to deliver.
Eliminate Letter Grades and Progress Reports:
Progress Reports are compilations of school data disaggregated in many iterations plus teacher, parent and student surveys (high school only). The schools are placed in peer groups, schools with similar demographics, and based on the data, assigned an index number which converts to a percentile and finally to a letter grade. New York State has a totally different assessment system based solely on NCLB data. The UFT President has complained that too much of the grade is based on performance and too little on growth, Quinn has suggested a “warning” system to alert schools moving in the wrong direction, de Blasio vigorously opposes letter grades, but is silent on a replacement system.
No candidate discussed another system to assess school progress or effectiveness.
All the candidates oppose closing schools, they suggest a “yellow alert,” or a return to a chancellor’s district, placing the lowest performing schools directly under the control of the chancellor, it begs the question: what happens to schools who in spite of interventions continue to move in the wrong direction?
Co-location of Charter Schools:
The candidates all oppose co-locations without consultation with parents – would parents actually have veto power? Probably not.
Districts versus Networks:
All the candidates oppose the current network system, Quinn indicates she wants to study it further, at the CSA forum she asked the audience to raise their hands if they would rather remain in their current networks – maybe 10-20% of the hands went up. The candidates advocate a return to districts but do not oppose mayoral control; Thompson is willing to give up a majority of mayoral appointees and all the candidates favor fixed terms for PEP members.
Eliminate the ATR Pool:
At the Brooklyn forum none of the candidates knew what ATRs were – by the time they got to the Queens meeting a few days later they were all opposed to the ATR system.
An Educator As Chancellor:
All the candidates, with the exception of Quinn, quickly supported an educator chancellor with Thompson going into detail and praising previois chancellors Ray Cortines and Rudy Crew. Quinn waffled and mentioned educators who were not former principals, she referenced the President of Hunter College, and, mentions leaders, without mentioning names, of not-for-profits.
Pay Raises for Teachers:
Every single municipal union contract has expired – negotiating new contracts would require many billions of new dollars. What percent increase? Retroactive wages? Should city employees pay a greater share of their health plans? None of the candidates made any commitments except to say they would sit down with the union and negotiate a “fair” contract
In 1989 the UFT supported David Dinkins in the primary against Ed Koch and in the general election against Giuliani – Dinkins won!!! – and the expired contract lingered for almost two years as Dinkins never got around to negotiating a contract. Rallies moved to radio ads to TV ads and eventually a contract was negotiated – the membership was so angry the union stood on the sidelines in 1993 – and – many teachers voted for Giuliani – the beginning of five terms of republican mayors in a democratic city.
Three months away from the primary the candidates are scrambling for endorsements and to “brand” ideas,
The 5/28 results of the Marist poll;
Among registered Democrats in New York City, including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate, if the Democratic primary were held today, here is how the contest would stand:
• 24% Christine Quinn
• 19% Anthony Weiner
• 12% Bill de Blasio
• 11% Bill Thompson
• 8% John Liu
• 1% Sal Albanese
• <1% Erick Salgado
• 1% Other
• 23% Undecided
• Quinn garners 48% to 33% for Anthony Weiner. 18% are undecided.
• Quinn with 48% tops de Blasio with 30%. 22% remain undecided.
• Quinn has majority support, 53%, against Liu who receives 25%. 22% are undecided.
• Against Thompson, Quinn receives 44% of Democrats’ support to 34% for Thompson. 22% are undecided.
If no candidate receives 40% of the vote, a runoff on September 24th.
In politics three months is a lifetime.
As soon as Quinn sprinted to the lead the negative ads began to pound away and erode her lead, now that Weiner jumped into the number two slot he will be the brunt of attacks.
Standing in the wings is Joe Lhota, a deputy mayor under Giuliani and an admirer of Mike Bloomberg. Will the democratic winner on September 24th be so battered that a republican can be elected for the 6th time?