Tis the season in NYC for reporters and politicos to watch intently for any hidden signals being sent by UFT President Randi Weingarten about whether (a) there is a new teacher contract in the works, (b) the union will be endorsing any of the candidates for mayor, and (c) there is any sort of connection whatsoever between (a) and (b). The parsing of her words is particularly intense.
So it made for some good chatter this week when Republican Mayor Bloomberg, who continues to make Gotham’s Democratic candidates seem irrelevant at times, announced his plans to create a new retention policy for 7th graders. The usually-bombastic Weingarten issued a statement calling it “a good way to help build on past successes and help better prepare our middle school children for high school.” Come again?
Speculation kicked into gear that Bloomberg and Weingarten were secretly making plans to break bread again at the ballpark. Some teachers and at least one visitor to this NYC political blog speculated that a contract deal for the city’s teachers would be sealed up by the start of school in September, and that the UFT might even join the chorus of endorsements for Bloomberg before November’s general election.
I can see why a guy spending his own money to win re-election might covet such an endorsement. A battle with angry teachers in the weeks before the election might cost him a few million more than if they were behind him, or even sitting this one out. But I don’t understand the CW that a UFT endorsement is something all politicians for higher office dream about at night. History shows the city’s teachers union hasn’t endorsed a winning candidate for mayor since David Dinkins in 1989. So is a UFT endorsement for mayor really a feather in the cap, or the kiss of death?
UPDATE: See what Bloomberg had to say about the contract here. Note that Bloomberg said the same thing last summer, at which time Weingarten was heard laughing out loud throughout Brooklyn. She didn’t laugh this time.
— Joe Williams