2012-05-04 / Columnists

The Rockaway Beat

Only Manhattan Loves Bloomberg
Commentary By Howard Schwach

Only Manhattan parents think that Mayor Michael Bloomberg is doing a good job as our “education mayor,” and even they are not sure.

It’s about time.

The Wave and other media outlets that have educators on their staff or as columnists have been writing for at least six or seven years that the mayor’s policies were bogus – smoke and mirrors designed to make the mayor look good and for the city to get more federal money over the equally bogus No Child Left Behind Act.

For a time, when it looked as if reading and math scores were way up and kids were graduating from high school at record numbers, parents were ecstatic and the daily newspapers fairly drooled over the mayor and his education programs.

Then, when the state was shamed into admitting that it was cooking the books and that the scores were not “indicative of what is going on in the classroom,” the bubble burst.

That was the beginning. A good look at the facts revealed that the test scores were higher because the number of right answers needed to achieve a high score was cut to the bone to make it look like more kids were reading on grade level.

The state got nervous again when it was revealed last year that, although more kids were graduating from public high schools, fewer of them were ready for either higher education or the workplace. While the city tried to spin the findings, it was clear to one and all that the standards had become so low that nearly anybody could have graduated – even those who never attended classes.

In addition, it was noted that New York Public School students were no longer doing well at standardized tests in social studies and science – a function of the fact that they no longer learned those subjects in school because of the manic focus on reading, math and test-taking skills.

Now, the chickens are coming home to roost.

A study done between April 10 and April 17 by NY 1 and Marist College found that a startling 56 percent disapprove of the way the mayor has run the school system since he took control more than 10 years ago.

Only 34 percent of those who responded said he was doing a good job.

It also found that nearly two out of three — 62 percent – want the next mayor to move in a different direction, compared with 27 percent who want the mayor’s policies to be continued by the next mayor.

Christine Quinn, please copy.

That might not be too bad for the mayor if he had not dubbed himself the “Education Mayor,” and told the electorate that he should be fired if he did not reform the school system.

He did not, although for a time he appeared to have succeeded by lying to the public.

Instead of manning up and leaving, he bribed his way into a third term and made things even worse.

Of course, since Bloomberg is the Manhattan Mayor and is disdainful of the outer boroughs, Manhattan parents had the highest opinion of his rule.

Broken down by borough, 69 percent in the Bronx, 65 percent in Brooklyn, 60 percent in Queens and 60 percent in Staten Island said the mayor was doing a lousy job. Only in Manhattan did 45 percent want Bloomberg and his policies to continue.

The other 55 percent wanted him to go. In another poll, done by Quinnipiac University in February, showed that 57 percent of those who were polled said that Bloomberg’s policies are a failure.

Those numbers are damning, and it is quite clear that the public has finally caught on to Bloomberg’s failure and his smoke and mirror campaign to make it look like he is successful.

He once said that he wanted his legacy to be that of the “Best mayor in New York City History.” He could have achieved that if he had really partnered with parents and teachers to make real change in the system.

Instead, he threw parents out of the process entirely and demonized the teachers until they could no longer stand to work in the system. The best teachers left in droves for other schools in both Nassau County and the private world.

It became unusual for a new teacher to last more than five years in the system.

Why would he disdain parents and teachers?

Because, as a businessman, Bloomberg “knows” lots of things about business.

While upper managers are prized and handled with kid gloves lest they leave, middle managers such as principals and worker bees such as teachers are interchangeable and know nothing about what they are doing. Just tell them what to do and then make sure they do what they are told. If not, then fire them and move on.

Parents are consumers. Keep them in the dark and spend lots of money to tell them what a wonderful product they have bought. When that doesn’t work, put a spin on it and move on.

There’s always somebody else to buy your product.

Another maxim of business is that competition is the key.

Allow business people to run the schools rather than educators, because they really understand accountability and competition.

People who made millions in hedge funds surely know better how to run a school that some principal who hardly makes $100,000 a year. What could they know?

More charter schools run by business people and politicians are the key to success.

In order to turn the schools over to the business interests, the key is destroying the teachers union.

Spend millions to demonize them. Close their schools and turn them over to the hedge fund operators and the politicians. That’s the way to fix education, Bloomberg believes.

Except, he has failed. With a year to go, people are starting to understand what his stewardship has meant to education and, as recent polls show, they don’t like it at all.

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