Education Advocates Slam Christine Quinn for Dropping Out of Debate

Christine Quinn (Photo: YouTube)

Christine Quinn (Photo: YouTube)

Organizers of a mayoral forum on education issues scheduled for tomorrow afternoon are fuming after City Council Speaker Christine Quinn pulled out at the last minute–allegedly, they charge, because she was worried she’d be subjected to attacks.

The debate, set up by the anti-Bloomberg group New Yorkers for Great Public Schools, which has been pushing for major changes in education policy in the next administration, is set to take place Tuesday afternoon at NYU.

“Update: Christine Quinn Drops Out; Her Campaign Says it Does Not Want to do a Debate on Education,” the group said in a press release sent to reporters Monday.

Billy Easton, a spokesman for the group, said they had gone out of their way to accommodate Ms. Quinn, rescheduling the event twice and ultimately holding it on a date that her staff had selected. But he said that, after hearing the final details of the format, her team informed them she would no longer be attending on Friday at 6 p.m.

“It’s unfortunate that Chris Quinn decided to back out of this important education debate at the last minute after agreeing to participate weeks ago,” Mr. Easton said in a statement.Her campaign told us over Memorial Day weekend it doesn’t want to do a debate, yet Quinn herself has repeatedly said in public she will put her record up against anyone else’s in the mayoral race. Quinn is running away from an opportunity to defend her record on education. It’s a big mistake.”

The candidates have been attending forums and debates non-stop over recent months, with two or three events sometimes scheduled on a single night. But Tuesday’s event, at the NYU Kimmel Center, was expected to be particularly charged, with a bent against Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Another group, the pro-Bloomberg StudentsFirstNY, is planning its own, competing rally at NYU, where parents will urge the candidates “not to turn back the clock on education reform.”

All of the other major Democratic candidates, including Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, former Comptroller Bill Thompson and current Comptroller John Liu, are scheduled to attend the event. According to an NY GPS source, former Congressman Anthony Weiner, who has dominated media coverage of the mayoral race since he announced his bid last week, today confirmed he would attend as well.

The debate, which will be moderated by outspoken Bloomberg critic Zakiyah Ansari, is being trumpeted as a highly charged event that will feature “an opening crossfire round, a lightning round,” and frequent opportunities for engagement. “In Speaker Quinn’s absence, other candidates will still be afforded the opportunity to rebut her public positions on key questions,” they warned.

While she has been critical of some of Mr. Bloomberg’s policies, including the tensions that often exist between traditional public schools and charter schools that share the same buildings, Ms. Quinn’s proposals are generally closer in line with the current administration’s than her Democratic rivals.

Update (5:55 p.m.): Quinn campaign spokesman Mike Morey rejected organizers’ debate-ducking argument.

“The organizers were informed last week we would not be able to make this one work,” Mr. Morey said in a statement. “We have never said to them or anyone else we would not debate education issues, in fact we’ve participated in two education debates this month alone, on top of a total of 44 debates and forums during the course of the campaign.”

Update (6:45 p.m.): Updated with Mr. Weiner’s attendance. Additional reporting by Colin Campbell.