Monday, November 15, 2010

Bloomberg abused power with Cathie Black appointment to schools chancellor, UFT boss says

Monday, November 15th 2010, 4:00 AM

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew (inset) criticized Mayor Bloomberg's process in appointing Cathie Black as schools chancellor.
Santos/News; Inset: Hermann for News
United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew (inset) criticized Mayor Bloomberg's process in appointing Cathie Black as schools chancellor.

The teachers union president ripped into the mayor Sunday for naming Cathie Black schools chancellor, calling it "irresponsible" and an abuse of power.

"It's my opinion that the mayor has abused his authority under the mayoral control law," United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew told more than 200 parents gathered for workshops on how to better navigate the school system.

"This is not about Ms. Black," Mulgrew said to applause. "I do not believe that anyone thought the mayor would speak to no one, hide it, keep it a secret, not consult any educational experts and then name someone with no qualifications to be the chancellor of the New York City school system."

Mulgrew said he would not pass judgment on Black until their meeting, which is scheduled for Wednesday, but he did tell parents, "I would be appalled if a teacher was named the head of the Fire Department of New York City."

Mayor Bloomberg has come under increasing attack for his choice of Black, a media executive with no education experience and no connection to the public school system, after Joel Klein resigned last Tuesday.

"Under the law, the mayor appoints the chancellor," said Education Department press secretary Natalie Ravitz.

Of the critics, she added, "These are individuals who have fought almost every reform we've put in place, so this is unsurprising."

Civil rights attorney Norman Siegel raised the possibility of legal action, saying the process raised "the specter of cronyism" and was "exclusionary."

"Some of us who go back 40 years as civil rights lawyers remember the process in, let's say, the '50s, when government officials would choose their cronies to be in public positions," he said at a news conference.

"We challenged that, we created the equal Opportunity Act ... what we're saying here today is that Bloomberg did not follow those principles."

Black will need a waiver from state Education Commissioner David Steiner before becoming chancellor because she is not a licensed superintendent. Steiner will convene a panel of experts to make a recommendation as soon as the city applies for the waiver.

City Councilman Robert Jackson (D-Harlem), who is chairman of the Council's Education Committee, called the mayor's claim that he engaged in a public process a "lie" and said he would hold hearings on the appointment before the state panel meets.

A group of City Council members also is planning to introduce a resolution against the needed state waiver on Wednesday.

Further opposition is expected at Tuesday's meeting of the Panel on Education Policy.

Manhattan representative Patrick Sullivan wants the panel to decide on whether to request the waiver. Parents who oppose Black have said they plan to make their voices heard.

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