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For City Council, advice is common, but question cards are not

Like Elizabeth, I was surprised to see a representative of the teachers union hand City Council members pre-printed cards with questions to ask during yesterday’s hearing on charter school expansion. Apparently, council members were taken aback by the move as well.

Organizations frequently provide information and suggestions for council members to use during hearings, according to a spokesman for Simcha Felder, the councilman who shared the cards with us. The spokesman, Eric Kuo, said Felder doesn’t think there is anything improper about the United Federation of Teachers and other groups suggesting questions to council members as one of their advocacy strategies.

But Kuo did say that the union took the strategy to a new level yesterday. “During the last hearing, it was more aggressive than before,” he said.

At the hearing, Felder drew uncomfortable looks from union officials sitting in the front row of the audience as he shared the cards with GothamSchools. Still, he even got up from his seat to collect the UFT’s question cards from his colleagues and pass them over to Elizabeth as well. Kuo said Felder shared the cards out of a commitment to transparency. “He doesn’t think it should be a secret” what council members have on their desks, Kuo said.