The backlash against Mayor Bloomberg’s new pick for city schools chancellor didn’t take long to gather steam. A state senator-elect with ties to the teacher’s union is already vying to block Cathie Black, the former Hearst Magazines chairman, from taking the job. He’s urging state officials to deny a legally-required waiver that would permit her to take office regardless of the fact that she lacks the state’s required education credentials.
According to the New York Post, Sen. Tony Avella (D) of Queens — from whom the paper says “ousted” the longtime Republican incumbent with a “big boost from the teachers union” — is urging the state’s education commissioner to deny a waiver that would let Black take the job.
State law, the Post says, “requires that school-system leaders have certification as superintendents, which Black does not have, but the law allows the state Education Department to grant waivers.”
But citing Black’s inexperience with unions and personal unfamiliarity with public education, Avella wants the state Education Commissioner David Steiner to deny that waiver.
Via the Post:
“I firmly believe that the chancellor should be a person who understands how to develop curriculum, who understands the value of parental involvement, and who understands what principals, teachers and students go through on a daily basis,” Avella wrote to state Education Commissioner David Steiner in a letter dated yesterday. “Ms. Black’s own admissions that she has had no experience in union negotiations and sent her own children to private schools further disqualifies her for this position.”
While Avella denies it, at least two politicians — including a Republican state senator from Brooklyn and a former councilwoman — suggested to the Post that Avella’s efforts to block Black’s appointment could be a political “reward” for the teachers’ union’s endorsement. That’s especially interesting given that Black’s first meeting with an education official in New York while being hired was reportedly with teacher’s union leader Michael Mulgrew.
Assuming Avella’s not just grandstanding, he may not want to hold his breath. Departing schools chancellor Joel Klein also received a waiver when he was appointed eight years ago, and Merryl Tisch, the chancellor for the state’s board of regents, told the Post she “couldn’t comment directly” on the waiver issue, but essentially confirmed that the state would defer to Bloomberg’s judgment:
“But I would like to say that when the Legislature granted mayoral control, that means you allow the mayor to choose his chief executive,” she said. “I don’t believe the mayor would ask someone to do this if he was not fully confident that they would be able to do it and I have confidence in the mayor and I have confidence in his choices.”