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UFT takes to the tube to tackle evals and Bloomberg's legacy

The United Federation of Teachers ratcheted up pressure on Mayor Bloomberg over teacher evaluations with a new television ad campaign that will run daily between now and Jan. 17.

The 30-second spot — and an accompanying statement from Michael Mulgrew — take aim at Bloomberg’s education legacy during the 11 years he’s been in office.

The ad begins with a still shot of a young student who has grown up through the city school system during the Bloomberg’s tenure, entering first grade during the mayor’s first year in office.

“And while she’s changed a lot, he hasn’t,” the narrator says, as negative tabloid and op-ed headlines fill the screen. “It’s still his way or the highway, at whatever cost.”

The ad also implores Bloomberg to “put politics aside” and “agree to a fair evaluation system that gives teachers the support they need to help children succeed.”

The $1.2 million campaign, which will run on local broadcast stations and cable television networks in the New York area, comes amid stalled negotiations between the city and the UFT over how to evaluate teachers. The city has until Jan. 17 to come to a deal on an evaluation system or else it will lose an estimated $250 million in state aid funding.

Update: Bloomberg must have seen the ad and didn’t like it. On his weekly radio radio this morning, the mayor scoffed at the notion that he’d feel pressured to negotiate in response to criticism. And he said the union’s tactics were an intentional ploy to avoid a negotiations.

As Capital New York reports:

“If there’s ever a ways to force somebody to not come to an agreement, it’s to run ads calling them bad things,” said Bloomberg, during his regular Friday morning radio show. “I mean, what kind of a strategy is this? And they’re not stupid. They know what they’re doing. So they’re deliberately trying to keep us from having a contract. It’s the only rational explanation.”

Up until last month, relations were cordial and both two sides publicly said they were committed to working together to meet the Jan. 17 deadline. But that harmony has dissolved in recent weeks, first with scathing letters from union leaders that essentially broke off talks. Then, two days after Christmas, the city filed a labor complaint that alleged the union was negotiating in “bad faith.”

In a statement this morning, UFT President Michael Mulgrew urged the mayor to come back to the bargaining table.

“If he wants his legacy to be anything but a decade of disaster, he will put politics aside and come to an agreement on an evaluation system that helps students and teachers succeed,” Mulgrew said.

The UFT blitz isn’t the only educator advertising videos that are making the rounds. As Capital New York reported, Educators 4 Excellence, an advocacy group more aligned to Bloomberg on education policy, began releasing one-minute online videos featuring its members. The videos show teachers in their classrooms talking about how they’d like to improve professionally. Evaluation systems, the teachers all conclude, is the engine for that growth.

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