As the Bloomberg era is ending in New York, teachers’ unions are licking their chops. More than ten years ago, Mayor Bloomberg wrested control of the public school system and embarked on an ambitious agenda of reform, instituting measures such as giving principals greater control over their budgets, making teacher tenure more difficult to obtain, closing non-performing schools, and opening scores of charter schools in their place. Though there certainly have been problems along the way, Howard Wolfson, Bloomberg’s Deputy Mayor for government affairs and communication, bemoans what appears to be on the horizon:
Today, as the city prepares to elect a new mayor, the system is at a crossroads. For the last several months, the Democratic candidates, desperate for the UFT’s endorsement, have engaged in a shameful, fawning dance of genuflection before the union, parroting its demands and echoing its complaints.This past week, the UFT finally gave its nod to the man who presided over the dysfunction and mediocrity of the school system in the 1990s, former School Board President Bill Thompson.Thompson was always the union’s logical choice because he is most familiar and comfortable with the way the system was run before mayoral control. He has promised to freeze co-locations of charter schools and place a moratorium on closing failing schools. He has called the state’s rigorous new evaluation system “unworkable.” He has proposed reducing the number of appointees the mayor can make to the Panel for Education Policy — the board that approves school proposals — which would open the door to special interests and limit the accountability critical to a functioning school system.Also potentially on the table: higher taxes or cuts to other services to pay for billions in retroactive pay raises.
In a speech after securing the union’s endorsement, Thompson said, “As mayor, I’m not going to demonize teachers. We’ve had enough of that.” He’s right, as far as that goes: We shouldn’t be demonizing teachers. But we also shouldn’t be empowering a bureaucratized, by-the-book educational system that has served neither students nor teachers particularly well in the past.Michael Bloomberg hasn’t been a flawless Mayor—far from it, in fact. But the Dem party hacks lining up to take his place don’t exactly fill us with hope either. For all his shortcomings, we suspect that New Yorkers, especially New Yorkers with children, will miss Mayor Bloomberg when he’s gone, perhaps a lot sooner than most think.[Michael Bloomberg photo courtesy Getty Images.]