Six mayoral candidates courting the city's teachers union all criticized Mayor Michael Bloomberg's education policies on Saturday but differed over how much they would change them.
Five Democrats — Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, former City Comptroller William Thompson, City Comptroller John Liu and former City Councilman Sal Albanese — plus former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion, a longtime Democrat who is running as an independent, attended a panel discussion hosted by the United Federation of Teachers.
Speaking to about 800 teachers at a Midtown hotel, they criticized Bloomberg policies including personnel choices, closing underperforming schools and relying heavily on student test scores to evaluate teachers and determine admission to specialized programs.
"No more Cathie Blacks!" said de Blasio, referring to Bloomberg's ill-fated choice of a publishing executive to lead the city's 1.1 million-pupil public school system. "We need a chancellor who is an educator. It shouldn't even be a question."
Quinn said the city's teacher evaluation plan "cannot have standardized test scores as its most significant factor," and she touted her proposal to overhaul gifted and talented programs by allowing some students to gain admission through a teacher's recommendation instead of through test scores.
But de Blasio blasted Quinn for supporting Bloomberg's 2009 bid for a third term and sought to tie her to the mayor's education policies.
"Who was in favor of the mayor having a third term?" he asked. "Who was against it?"
Quinn's answer to the question about whether the next schools chancellor should be an educator was "not necessarily."
She said she would not rule out education "advocates" and mentioned U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan — whose name was met with boos.
Carrion, who like Albanese is a former teacher, said he had seen "failure in the classroom from colleagues" and would not want an evaluation system that protects bad teachers.
"We have to say, you know what, when this is not working we're not going to protect the folks who are not deserving of protection," he said.
Union President Michael Mulgrew said the mayoral control system that Bloomberg won from the state Legislature has turned into "mayoral dictatorship" over the schools.
"It's time to declare our experiment with one-man rule a failure," Mulgrew said.
Bloomberg spokeswoman Lauren Passalacqua responded in an email, "When the UFT ran the school system, our schools were notorious for their dysfunction, violence and corruption. Now, New York City is nationally recognized as an incubator for education reform: Our graduation rates are up by more than 40 percent; we're closing the achievement gap; and we've opened a wider variety of innovative programming so that our students can reach both their college and career goals."
She added that "this spectacle of candidates genuflecting at the altar of a narrow special interest group reveals the true threat to the hard-earned achievements of our students and teachers."
The UFT said it would make an endorsement for this September's Democratic mayoral primary on June 19.
The union's 200,000 members include public school teachers as well as some nurses, day-care workers and others. Not all live and vote in New York City.
Middle school teacher Carlos Garcia said after the forum that he was impressed by Thompson, Liu and de Blasio but he feared Quinn "would turn into another Bloomberg."
The UFT presented actor Henry Winkler with its John Dewey Award for his advocacy on behalf of students with dyslexia.