In his weekly radio show last week, Mayor Michael Bloomberg compared the United Teachers Federation, the city’s teachers union, to the National Rifle Association. The move was seen by many as particularly inflammatory in light of the mayor’s outspoken advocacy for gun control.
The comment was part of a battle with the union over a new teacher evaluation system.
“Teachers want to work with the best, and most of them are not in sympathy with the union,” Bloomberg declared. “The NRA’s another place where the membership, if you do the polling, doesn’t agree with the leadership.”
Some city politicians have spoken out against the mayor, calling the statement especially inappropriate on the heels of the recent mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.
“Less than a month ago, teachers laid down their lives to protect their kids,” Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “That’s what drives the men and women in our schools—not some ideological agenda.”
The United Teachers Federation released an ad criticizing the mayor for “going after teachers” instead of supporting them.
According to the UFT, the spot will air during Good Morning America, the Today Show, the Daily Show, Jeopardy, Judge Judy, SNL, and Knicks games and will appear regularly on NY1, Bravo, Lifetime, TNT, HGTV, USA and BET.
More than 60 city and state elected officials currently in office, including City Council Speaker and mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn, signed a letter condemning the mayor for an analogy they say “not only vilifies New York City teachers, but also mocks the work they do every day to educate, uplight, and protect our children,” and requesting “an immediate and unconditional apology” to “the teachers of New York City and their union.”
At a press conference this morning, the mayor reiterated that his statement was not an attack on teachers, but rather on the union leadership.
“The members of this union have done a spectacular job in the last ten years,” Bloomberg said. “An evaluation system would show just how well most of these teachers do.”
Bloomberg accused the union of doing “anything to avoid having to face the issue of coming up with a real evaluation system.”
“The whole idea here is to promote good teaching,” the mayor insisted. “The [union] leadership is standing in the way of any kind of promoting good teaching.”