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Mayoral Candidates Spar Over Education At UES Forum

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Seven likely candidates for mayor gathered Tuesday night on the Upper East Side for a forum on education hosted by NY1 political anchor Errol Louis where there were more disagreements among them than in the past. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.

For a while now, the Democratic candidates for mayor have been taking swipes at each other and Tuesday night was no exception.

"I’ve heard far too often from teachers that they feel that they’ve been vilified," said likely Democratic candidate Christine Quinn.

"My question always is, Where were you when teachers were being vilified? But that will be a matter of public record as we all debate over the coming months," said Democratic candidate Bill de Blasio.

What’s different now is a growing field of Republican candidates providing often sharply contrasting views. When moderator and NY1 political anchor Errol Louis asked who was in favor of merit pay for teachers, all three Republicans, and only the Republicans, raised their hands.

After Democrat Bill de Blasio talked about funding universal pre-K by taxing the wealthiest New Yorkers, Republican Tom Allon said that would drive away the city’s tax base. And Republican Joe Lhota defended some of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's policies.

"Long ago I called for a moratorium on school co-locations, as well as school closures," said Democratic candidate John Liu.

"We close schools for one reason and one reason only: They’re failing the students and they’re failing to teach the students. It’s unconscionable, it’s immoral to keep a school that is failing our students open," Lhota said.

Republican John Catsimatidis, meanwhile, suggested a vocational track for struggling students.

"Let them become an electrician, a plumber, whatever. Earn a hundred grand a year. Instead of dropping out and working for Burger King, or working for Walmart, for eight dollars an hour," Catsimatidis offered.

"You don’t want to preclude them from being able to go to college," countered Democratic candidate Bill Thompson.

Some candidates, though, still have homework to do: Catsimatidis referred more than once to the Board of Education, essentially defunct since 2002.

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