Several declared or potential candidates for mayor discussed city public education at a forum Wednesday night.
Speaking to hundreds of principals and assistant principals, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Comptroller John Liu, former Comptroller William Thompson and publisher Tom Allon focused on larger issues that have influenced education over the past 10 years.
Quinn, de Blasio, Liu and Thompson distanced themselves from Mayor Michael Bloomberg's education policies, attacking the mayor's record on everything from charter schools to choosing schools chancellors that are not educators.
The forum comes amidst a school bus strike and the city's failure to agree with the teachers' union on a deal for teacher evaluations.
Liu was the first candidate to bring up the evaluation issue, but all the candidates agreed that they think the mayor should have made a deal by now. One of the issues, they said, was that the mayor looks at revising evaluations as a way of getting rid of bad teachers, as opposed to a way of helping teachers get better at their jobs.
"We have to have an evaluation system, and I respect anybody in this process who thinks they know the perfect way," Quinn said. "But let's not make the perfect the enemy of the good."
"What I don't get in this whole discussion is, it is focused on the notion that somehow, the biggest problem facing us is some percentage of teachers who aren't working out," de Blasio said. "I believe that's a very small percentage of our school system."
"The mayor saying that, 'Well, the sunset provision after two years doesn't make any sense because you'll never be able to get rid of any teachers,' that's why he hasn't been able to come up with an agreement, because his goal is making a point by getting rid of teachers," Liu said. "That's not the way we set up an evaluation system."
The candidates that we've the least about on education are the ones that did not attend Wednesday's forum, so there should be many more of these debates going forward.