From City Journal:
Thompson’s education speech didn’t identify what was wrong with Bloomberg’s “curriculum” except for the old saw about “teaching to the test.” Thompson still hasn’t noticed that the biggest problem in Bloomberg’s schools is that there is no grade-by-grade curriculum emphasizing a core body of knowledge. Nor is there an approach to teaching reading based on proven methodologies.
Thompson’s focus on issues like lowering class sizes might have worked in the old days to secure political support from the powerful United Federation of Teachers, with all the phone banks and campaign workers the union usually mobilizes for its favored Democratic candidates. But the advent of mayoral control, coupled with Bloomberg’s success in buying off potential opposition, has made the Democrats’ traditional union-based political strategy inoperable. In the early days of mayoral control, the UFT was one of the mayor’s only institutional critics on education. Union president Randi Weingarten regularly blasted Schools Chancellor Joel Klein for trying to dictate what teachers should be doing in the classroom. Of late, however, the billionaire mayor has domesticated and co-opted the union, partly through taxpayer funds, which have so far produced 43 percent teacher salary increases and the promise of more to come. The salary hikes have swelled the union’s coffers, since member dues go up in proportion to any pay increases.
Confrontation has changed to cooperation, and Weingarten has been at the mayor’s side offering support during his periodic press conferences announcing spectacular test score improvements, which the union knows are questionable. Right now the UFT takes in about $140 million per year; that will go up by $10 million more if, as is rumored, teachers get another 8 percent pay increase in the new contract starting October 31st. Top union operatives will thus have seen a 50 percent increase in their own salaries since the advent of mayoral control.
The UFT and the Bloomberg administration have increasingly developed a cartel-like working relationship, with New York taxpayers paying the price. Combine the effects of that arrangement with a desultory mayoral campaign, and soon there will be no “public” in New York City’s public education.