3:54 pm Jan. 28, 20131
From the get-go this morning, during what was his final testimony on the state budget as mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg went on the attack against the teachers union and the state education department.
Near the start of his testimony before a joint session of the Assembly Ways and Means and the Senate Finance committees in Albany, Bloomberg derided the "state Education Department's outrageous pandering to the [United Federation of Teachers]," described U.F.T. tactics in its negotiations with the city as "shameless ploys" and said the teacher evaluation system as proposed by the U.F.T., would have created "an unworkable sham and a fraud on the public."
And he was just getting started.
The issue at hand was the city's failure to reach an agreement with the teachers union on a teacher evaluation system by the state-mandated January 17 deadline.
The city was one of just a handful of state districts that failed to reach an agreement with its teachers union by the deadline, endangering up to $450 million in state and federal aid.
Today, the mayor said the ensuing loss of funding could lead to the loss by attrition of 700 teachers this school year and another 1,800 next, in addition to fewer after-school programs, fewer substitute teachers and fewer teacher aides.
The state has since set a new deadline, February 15. If the city and union don't reach a deal by then, state education commissioner John King has threatened to suspend the city's ability to spend another $830 million in federal aid.
Following his testimony, Bloomberg endured multiple rounds of questioning from the assembled politicians, including a particularly heated interrogation from Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, an ally of the UFT.
"Don't you feel some responsibilty for this disaster?" she asked him. "And it is a disaster."
"Now we're sitting here, and I have to look at my son, who is a freshman in a New York City high school and say to him he's gonna be punished because the adults couldn't work it out?" she continued, now yelling at the billionaire mayor as if he were an errant schoolboy.
The mayor offered a long response in which he pointedly declined to take any responsibility.
"What is your strategy for accepting some responsibility as the head of the local school district under mayoral control for this debacle?" Nolan asked again.
The mayor responded that the evaluation deals reached in the rest of the state are "just jokes, Cathy," because they expire after just a year, and getting rid of a failing teacher takes two years in New York State.
"People are saying they did something and they didn't do it," he said.
"But incremental progress is how government works," she countered, before returning to the trope of her son.
"What do I tell my son? It's my son who's in a New York City public school that I chose to send him. What do I say?"
"Cathy, you can change the law," said Bloomberg. "Let us rate every month."
"Everybody else made an agreement but the city," she said.
"Yes, because everybody else is just interested in getting the money and committing what I call fraud," he responded.
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