How dumb does the teachers’ union think the City Council is? Plenty dumb, it seems, judging from the fact that, as the New York Post reported, a teachers’ union lackey slipped cue cards to council members before a hearing last week on public notification of new charter schools. Given that several of the council members proceeded, like programmed robots, to read the questions printed on the cards—questions that naturally took the United Federation of Teachers’ anti-charter-school position—suggests the union’s low estimation of the council’s mental candlepower may not be far off the mark.
Why did the teachers’ union go to such lengths? While the union is a great champion of the interests of its members, it remains an unfortunate defender of the status quo, resisting the efforts of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein to bring innovation to our schools. The union is scared to death of charter schools—those private-public partnerships that are offering New York City parents new flexibility and options—because they put more pressure on all schools to perform. The hearings were being held to discuss whether the city’s Department of Education ought to be required to give more advance notice before slotting a charter school to share space with a public school. The union would like as much advance notice as possible—so its members will have time to agitate and stir up parents against the incoming charter school. So they tried to plant questions with council members that would cast the Bloomberg administration in a bad light.
Indeed, since Mayor Bloomberg has made opening new charter schools, particularly in poor and ill-served neighborhoods, a priority, the teachers’ union’s goal is to get Albany to scrap New York’s current arrangement by which the mayor has control over the school system. (Those readers who lived in New York back in the bad old patronage days of the old Board of Ed may take this moment to quake in their boots at the idea of the teachers’ union getting its way.)
While the union’s providing clandestine cue cards is par for the course, the council members’ taking the bait is frankly revolting. As elected officials on the taxpayer dime, council members are instructed to represent the best interests of New York voters, not to make policy by reading from a script crafted by a special interest group.