Mike Bloomberg: I’m Not Living in a Fantasy World, Students Are the Priority


After the mayor’s State of the City speech yesterday, everyone’s been talking about Bloomberg’s words on education and teacher evaluation (less so, his mentions of Lady Gaga or Words With Friends).

We caught up with a few predictably critical pols yesterday afternoon in the Bronx who all voluntarily brought up education and the United Federation of Teachers, saying that Bloomberg’s speech was way too confrontational toward teachers. On his weekly radio show this morning, Bloomberg took the opportunity to discuss education and respond to the unsurprising backlash he faced after his speech.

Bloomberg had criticized the UFT for insisting on provisions that make it harder to remove ineffective teachers and promoted his plans for reforming the tenure process and teacher evaluations.

In his obligatory response, UFT President Michael Mulgrew said: “The mayor seems to be lost in his own fantasy world of education, the one where reality doesn’t apply. It doesn’t do the kids and the schools any good for him to propose the kind of teacher merit pay system that has failed in school districts around the country.” He also said that “the mayor knows perfectly well that under state law these kinds of initiatives have to be negotiated with the union,” referring to programs where school-based committees evaluate teachers on merit and can replace them.

On his regular appearance on WOR this morning, talking with Rep. Pete King instead of usual host John Gambling, Bloomberg was on the defense.

King started the show off with not much of a question, but rather more of a provocation: “I’ve been sitting here all morning listening to Joe Bartlett, and every time he reads the news, it’s how the Teachers’ Union is attacking you for disastrous policies and living in a fantasy world. So Mr. Mayor, it’s all yours.”

Let’s hear it again, Mr. Mayor! “Well, it’s not a fantasy world for the best teachers who are proud of what they do. In all fairness, that’s the vast bulk of the teachers. And the very best really would like to be able to get bonuses. Nobody goes into education for the money, but we all know it’s tough to pay the bills,” Bloomberg said.

Bloomberg rambled briefly about the studies that show that, surprise, good teachers make a big difference in the lives of students! “I’ve always joked that in real estate, people say the three things that are important — they are, ‘Location, location, location,’ and when it comes to education, it’s, ‘Teacher quality, teacher quality, teacher quality.'”

“We’ve got to make sure our schools are run not for the teachers but for the students,” he said. “Keep in mind, the Teachers’ Union is there to represent the teachers, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’ve never had a problem. People want to get together. They want to hire someone to represent them. That’s great, but they’re supposed to worry about better wages and better working conditions for their members. The city’s supposed to worry about better educational outcomes for our students and that’s what we’re going to do.”

And that means, he said, more rewards for good teachers and giving the ineffective ones the boot: “More important than keeping them on the job is making sure our students have the knowledge they need to go out and compete in an ever more competitive world.”

And despite all the teachers vs. students chitchat, he added, “You know for all the bluster, I think in the end my hope is that people will come together.” Wouldn’t that be nice?