Teachers union focuses on Bloomberg and his graduates

The teachers union blames Bloomberg. (screen grab from youtube.com)
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It doesn't look like the City of New York or the local teachers union are moving toward reaching a deal on teacher evaluations ahead of the January 17 deadline that could cost city schools $300 million in state funding.

The United Federation of Teachers is slated to run this ad from now until that deadline during a number of network and cable shows: "The Daily Show," "Jeopardy," "Good Morning America," "Judge Judy," "Saturday Night Live" and others.

A union spokesman told me the ad buy is approximately $1.2 million. In the ad, the union accuses Bloomberg of having "No Plan To Support Teachers" and "No Strategy To Improve Schools."

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The union also says they want a "fair evaluation system that gives teachers the support they need to help kids succeed."

The ad juxtaposes Bloomberg's supposed inflexible style of governing for the last 11 years with a student who has gone from first grade through high school during the same time. "And while she's changed a lot, he hasn't," a narrator says.

(This also plays on fact that Bloomberg is, controversially, a three-term mayor: Today's high school seniors have gone from start to finish in city schools under the control of the same mayor, meaning that their educations are in a sense Bloomberg's responsibility in an unprecedented way.)

Yesterday, a teacher-founded organization that received funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, launched its own P.R. offensive, with a series of videos showing teachers in classrooms calling for a more "comprehensive" and frequent evaluation system, which they said would better enable teachers to help students.

Politically, the ads are smart: it shows teachers wanting teacher evaluations. Bloomberg, therefore, can argue that the union is blocking the deal because they're looking out for the interest of the union, rather than all teachers.

Both the union and city officials agree on the overall point: a new evaluation system is needed (if for no other reason than in order to get that $300 million in state aid. Governor Andrew Cuomo said he will not extend the deadline and if they fail to reach a deal, it's a "pox on both your houses," he told reporters earlier this week in Albany).

Where both sides disagree is on what shape those new teacher evaluations should take. And, obviously, that's the part that's not settled.

The ads from U.F.T. and the other teacher group, Educators 4 Excellence, don't really get into the details of what they are fighting about, but are instead shaping the narrative of who is to blame for when they miss the deadline, and lose out on all that money.