In Tuesday's Democratic primary debate, former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg boasted that he raised New York City teacher salaries by 43 percent during his time in office, declaring, "we treated our teachers the right way, and the unions will tell you exactly that."
City educators promptly took to online platforms to scoff at his claims.
As the only remaining Democratic primary candidate with experience running a major city's public education department, Bloomberg's record offers plenty of evidence of his relationship with the city's teachers.
Under his tenure, the Department of Education delayed ratification of teacher contracts, freezing pay raises while negotiations with the United Federation of Teachers sometimes dragged on for years. As Chalkbeat reported, "no one drew Bloomberg’s ire more than the United Federation of Teachers. At first, he worked collaboratively with the union, arriving at a contract agreement well ahead of schedule that boosted base pay by 43 percent. The longest-serving teachers could now earn more than $100,000. But that was the last contract they agreed to... He proposed a simple eight-page contract to replace the UFT’s doorstop-sized agreement, pushed for merit pay — a third rail for the union — and fantasized about firing half of the city’s teachers."
UFT President Michael Mulgrew said the union had to fight for the one-time 43 percent raise with concessions to work longer hours. "Actually the raises were part of very tough negotiations, but remember, in those raises, we had to agree to work more time so it was basically compensation for more time that we worked," Mulgrew said in a phone interview.
When asked for comment, the Bloomberg campaign pointed to this 2006 press release: "The UFT came to the bargaining table and together we reached a deal that gives teachers the raises they deserve and allows us to continue strengthening accountability and improving our City schools," Bloomberg said in the release. "We've reached this agreement nearly a year before the current contract expires - a contract which made historic reforms while fairly compensating the hardworking teachers in the UFT."
At one point, Bloomberg compared the UFT to the NRA. "That was something Mike said in the heat of the moment, and he regrets it," a spokesperson for his campaign said in the emailed statement.
Eschewing career educators, Bloomberg enlisted people from the business and finance worlds to lead the country's largest school system, including appointing media attorney Joel Klein to the top post of chancellor. Klein led a campaign to fire low-performing teachers who failed to meet metrics of "value-added score results," according to EdWeek.
"He did not support the teachers of New York City," Mulgrew said of Bloomberg's debate comments, and added, "people were infuriated. They're like 'he's on a stage blatantly lying. And we want everyone to know.'"