Editorials

Ed poll should give mayor pause

“A year of political attacks on teachers and their unions nationally appeared not to have registered with New Yorkers,” according to a New York Times public opinion poll released on Sept. 6.

The poll findings appear to show that the public has not bought into the scapegoating of teachers orchestrated by so-called education reformers and their wealthy backers. They also seem to contradict the city Department of Education on certain points while validating the UFT’s stand on some key issues.

By a dramatic percentage, more parents view the union positively than negatively. Those who believe that teachers were the best thing about their child’s school jumped from 22 percent in 2004 to 34 percent today.

Parents are savvy to the difference between the educators who do so much fine work in our schools and the system itself.

They identified the “worst things” as overcrowding and class sizes, and they also blamed the school system for its preoccupation with standardized tests and for its inadequate service to children with special needs.

The objects of their displeasure were not educators or the union but rather the city administration and the educational bureaucracy. By a large margin, parents appear to lack confidence in the school system itself.

The UFT has tried to work collaboratively with the DOE to find solutions to the system’s myriad problems, but the DOE often treats problems and concerns raised by parents and rank-and-file educators as non-issues or issues unworthy of immediate attention. The DOE’s avowed goal of increased “parent engagement” seems more like an attempt to appease rather than to empower.

The education policies of the mayor simply do not resonate with New Yorkers. Only 34 percent of those polled approve of how the mayor is handling education.

Black and Latino parents, whose children make up 70 percent of the enrollment in public schools, see that the administration’s oft-repeated and righteous-sounding pledge to close the achievement gap between minorities and whites has gone nowhere. Indeed 64 percent of blacks and 57 percent of Latinos say they are generally not satisfied with the public school system.

Citing the poll, The New York Times reports, “Most (New Yorkers) say the city’s school system has stagnated or declined since Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg took control of it nine years ago.” The finding that satisfaction with the schools’ quality is higher among public school parents is a tribute to the teachers with whom they have direct contact and experience.

So cheers to the educators and the union. Jeers to the system as it is currently being run.

That’s the poll’s position.

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