New York mayoral candidates criticize Bloomberg on schools during forum at Fordham University
And they're off!
Less than two weeks after the Presidential election, the mayoral race began Monday as the top Democratic contenders criticized Mayor Bloomberg’s handling of city public schools.
And on two key issues, there was City Council Speaker Christine Quinn — a Bloomberg ally who is the perceived front-runner — and there was everyone else.
Of the four Democrats at the candidates’ forum, Quinn offered the gentlest critique of the mayor’s eduction policies.
“Clearly progress has been made, but not enough,” she said.
“We have seen the establishment of mayoral control which we’d never seen before which is a good thing, and we've seen other progress made particularly in having more special schools out there as choices.”
The other Democrats took a harder line.
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio conceded that “Mayoral control of education was a step forward.”
But, he quickly added, “A lot of what’s happened in the second and third terms of Mayor Bloomberg have been steps back. I think our school system is largely stalled right now...We’re stalled and we need a very, very serious reset,” he added.
Former Controller Bill Thompson said “the promise of mayoral control” of the schools “has not been realized.” Current Controller John Liu said Bloomberg’s policies “have had very mixed results.”
And of the Democrats, only Quinn she would consider appointing a non-educator as schools chancellor - embracing a controversial concept championed by Bloomberg.
The forum kicked off a season of candidate nights and policy panels that will run through the election.
Polls show that less than a third of voters are satisfied with Bloomberg’s school policies.
Quinn’s answers reflected an attempt to thread the needle — differentiate herself from the mayor, but not so much as to jeopardize a potential endorsement.
She joined with the other Democrats in criticizing the current emphasis on high-stakes testing. She also joined in criticizing Bloomberg’s attacks on the teachers union, which has been increasingly critical of the mayor and will likely issue an endorsement in the primary.
Liu offered the sharpest criticisms of the mayor on the policy of allowing free rent to charter schools in public school buildings, calling for a moratorium on the practice, which none of his rivals supported.
“When you look at the amount of friction that these co-locations are creating, it is just so disruptive,” he said. “It’s a process that I believe is a shell game, is a three card monte with our public school kids.”
Liu and Thompson also called for a moratorium on another contentious policy — closing underperforming schools.
Although all the Democrats criticized the mayor, there were areas of agreement. All favored continuing mayoral control city schools instead of returning to a powerful board of education — agreeing with reformers who loom as a potentially important source of campaign contributions.