Mayor Bloomberg and the teachers union have traditionally had a rocky relationship, especially as the city and United Federation of Teachers have struggled to settle on teachers evaluation criteria in order to get $450 million in state funding. But last Friday, Bloomberg's off-the-cuff remarks putting the UFT in the same camp as the National Rifle Association ruffled more than a few feathers.
During his weekly radio show, Bloomberg, in what the NY Times calls a "lengthy stream of consciousness" about the evaluation negotiations, said, "Teachers want to work with the best, and most of them are not in sympathy with the union... It’s typical of Congress, it’s typical of unions, it’s typical of companies, I guess, where a small group is really carrying the ball and the others aren’t necessarily in agreement. The N.R.A. is another place where the membership, if you do the polling, doesn’t agree with the leadership."
The union responded, "In the wake of the Newtown tragedy, the mayor’s comparison this morning of teachers to the National Rifle Association is completely inappropriate, and a demonstration of how difficult he can be to deal with on any issue — much less one as complex as a new teacher evaluation system." Then, City Council Speaker, Bloomberg ally and mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn told the Daily News, "Obviously they’re comments that should never have been made. I couldn’t disagree with them more strongly... To compare that with the leadership of the (teachers union) couldn’t be more wrong and incorrect and a totally ill-placed comparison that should never have been said."
Not to be outdone, Public Advocate and mayoral hopeful Bill de Blasio issued a statement, "Mayor Bloomberg stepped way over the line. He should apologize immediately. Less than a month ago, teachers laid down their lives to protect their kids. That's what drives the men and women in our schools—not some ideological agenda."
Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson said to the Times, "As the mayor has said before, the union is a special-interest group focused on advancing its agenda, whether it’s in the public interest or not. Their refusal to agree to a fair evaluation deal is just the latest example of this."