The teachers' union is demanding that Mayor Michael Bloomberg apologize for his recent remark comparing the group to the National Rifle Association, as a deadline nears for the city to devise a new teacher evaluation system in order to collect $250 million in state aid for schools. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.
Three days after Mayor Michael Bloomberg likened the United Federation of Teachers to the National Rifle Association, the firestorm over his remarks is only growing.
On his weekly radio show, the mayor said members of the teachers union do not necessarily agree with its leadership. He said that is typical of Congress, other unions, companies and the NRA.
"The point I was trying to make is that just like any other special interest group, the leadership of this union is more extreme and more obstructionist than its members," the mayor said on Monday.
That explanation did little to appease the union and other officials. They said the remark is particularly galling after the deadly school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
"Comparing us to the National Rifle Association at this point in time is just wrong," said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. "All we have asked him to do is apologize."
Several Democrats expected to run for mayor this year also piled on Bloomberg at a Monday rally.
"Say you are sorry. Do something. You rarely do. Apologize to the teachers," said Bill Thompson, who ran against Bloomberg in 2009 and will run again this year.
"Let's just call it what it is. It's an utter disrespect for teachers," said City Comptroller John Liu.
"The mayor is very good at hurling insults and he is not particularly good at apologizing," said Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, another likely candidate for mayor, did not attend the Monday rally, but she signed onto a letter demanding the mayor apologize.
The bitter fight comes as the city and teachers union is meant to be negotiating a new teacher evaluation system needed to access $250 million in state aid for city schools. The total haul could be nearly double that if the city taps into grant funding, but the clock is ticking.
"What they are trying to do is to have an issue so they can't face evaluations," said Bloomberg.
The official deadline for a teacher evaluation agreement to be reached is January 17. But the mayor said it has to be in place before then, so the state has time to review the deal and sign off on it.
The president of the teachers' union said there is still time for both sides to come together, but he says the mayor's NRA remark is not helpful.