Mayor Bloomberg, whose choice of Cathie Black as the new chancellor of New York City schools has come under heavy fire, is also facing a possible setback for the appointment, as critics urge the state education commissioner to deny Black the waiver that she would need to get the job.
Black, a former media executive and President of Hearst Magazines, has no experience in the field of education, and no connection to the public school system. She would need to be granted a waiver before she could take over as chancellor.
“Today we begin a people's campaign to say no, no to the waiver for Cathleen Black,” said civil rights lawyer Normal Siegel, who released a copy of a letter to Steiner urging him not to grant the waiver.
President of the United Federation of Teachers Michael Mulgrew also ripped into the Mayor's choice, calling his pick of Black an abuse of power.
"It's my opinion that the mayor has abused his authority under the mayoral control law," he told more than 200 parents gathered for workshops on how to better navigate the school system, according to the Daily News.
"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 plans to meet with Black on Wednesday, and said he will not pass judgment on her until then, however, he did tell parents, “I would be appalled if a teacher was named the head of the Fire Department of New York City.”
Last week, Bloomberg made the surprise announcement that Joel Klein, the current chancellor, would be stepping down to take a job with News Corp., and that Black would replace him. The mayor called Black, who sent her own children to a private boarding school, "a world-class manager'' and the best person to head New York City's 1.1 million-pupil public school system.
Critics have questioned Black’s lack of experience within a public school system and also the secrecy of the process in which she was chosen.
“He claims that Cathie Black emerged as the best from that search,” said Michael Myers, executive director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition. “This is Orwellian doublespeak. ... How could there have been a public search when the public knew nothing about the vacancy?”
Natalie Ravitz, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education, said of the critics: “These are individuals who have fought almost every reform we've put in place, so this is unsurprising.”
The News reports that Members of the City Council plan to introduce a resolution against the state waiver on Wednesday.