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He got schooled!
Mayoral hopeful Andrew Yang backed off his critique of the powerful city teachers union on Wednesday — during a candidate forum hosted by the organization.
United Federation of Teachers chief Michael Mulgrew asked if he stood by comments he made to Politico last month that partially blamed the union for the erratic reopening of schools.
Yang replied that he was indeed frustrated by the issue — but then credited Mulgrew for helping him to better understand where the blame should land.
“Mike, you and I had a productive conversation afterwards,” he said. “Where you conveyed to me that it’s been a failure of leadership on the part of the mayor. That teachers need a partner whose committed to reopening schools in a responsible way that protects teachers and makes everyone feel safe and secure.”
Less than a month ago, Yang drew headlines for brushing up against what has long been considered a political third rail during campaign season — criticism of the UFT.
“I will confess to being a parent that has been frustrated by how slow our schools have been to open, and I do believe that the UFT has been a significant reason why our schools have been slow to open,” Yang told Politico.
But Mulgrew’s subsequent tutorial appears to have altered that position.
“I thought that conversation was very informative,” he told Mulgrew at the forum. “And I agree that the mayor has failed the teachers and public school parents like me in providing the leadership that we needed to get our schools reopened more quickly.”
Mulgrew, who moderated Wednesday’s forum, seemed satisfied with Yang’s improved comprehension.
“We understood your frustration,” Mulgrew said, adding that his members were “upset” by Yang’s statements. “But we understood that we were the people who put the plan together to actually get the schools open. So I appreciate you on that.”
Mulgrew also quizzed Yang about his statements to Politico that questioned the current teacher tenure system.
Yang was slightly less willing to surrender that point, saying “there are a lot of teachers that I think could stand a bit more seasoning before you give them a certain degree of tenure or professional assurance.”
Yang had told Politico that teachers were tenured at around two years.
Mulgrew corrected him on that point Wednesday, telling him that they’re eligible after four years and that half of all city teachers never make it that far.
Yang agreed that attrition had to be addressed — but then stumbled into another UFT forbidden zone.
“If teachers are delivering at a very high level they should be getting paid more,” he said. “That’s something that our system should be able to allow for.”
Mulgrew immediately renewed the inquisition.
“I thought we were getting near the end,” he said. “Now you just crossed into a subject that is know as merit pay in our profession.”
The union boss said the approach has been “experimented with” in city schools and repeatedly failed.
“I’m not suggesting that compensation necessarily gets matched to something like test scores,” Yang said in trying to regain his footing, “I’m not for that. But I am for more of the resources that are going into our system right now going to teachers. Which I imagine most teachers would be for.”
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