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Bloomberg Offers Explanation For Controversial Remarks Comparing Teacher’s Union To NRA

Says 'Teachers Are Great',' Rips Union For Being 'Extreme' & 'Obstructionist'
Mayor Michael Bloomberg stands alongside Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott. (credit: Rich Lamb, WCBS 880)

Mayor Michael Bloomberg stands alongside Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott. (credit: Rich Lamb, WCBS 880)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork)Mayor Michael Bloomberg continues to take heat for comments he made on his radio show last week.

Bloomberg, upset by the reluctance of the United Federation of Teachers to come up with an evaluation system, mentioned the UFT and the National Rifle Association in the same breath when talking about organizations being controlled by a vocal minority.

“The point I was trying to make was just like any other special interest group, the leadership of this union is more extreme and more obstructionist than its members,” Bloomberg said on Monday.

On Friday, the mayor drew fire for the following remarks:

“There’s a small group in the union. That’s typical of an organization like that,” Bloomberg said. “It’s typical of Congress, it’s typical of unions, it’s typical of companies, I guess, where a small group really is carrying the ball and the others aren’t necessarily in agreement,” Bloomberg said. “The NRA’s another place where the membership if you do the polling the membership doesn’t agree with the leadership.”

Bloomberg stressed on Monday that he was making specific reference to the union and not the majority of teachers themselves.

“I’ve said many times that our teachers are great,” he said. “You know, I’ve never seen a union before that tries to denigrate the job that is members are doing.  The members of this union have done a spectacular job in the last 11 years.”

The mayor said an evaluation system would highlight the “amazing” job that teachers have done to improve graduation rates, adding that a “handful of teachers” could use “remedial work,” while others “cannot be in front of our kids.”

“The whole idea here is to promote good teaching and when we try to work with the leadership of the union, it’s standing in the way of  any kind of promoting great teaching and certainly it’s not working for the interests of our children,” Bloomberg said. “It’s working for interest of a handful of teachers.”

Criticism of the comments continued on Monday.

National UFT President Randi Weingarten said the comparison in the wake of the Newtown elementary school shootings is disgusting.

“By comparing the NRA and the UFT, it cheapens [Mayor Bloomberg's] advocacy about gun control at a time when we need his advocacy to be sharp,” Weingarten said.

“I want to be very clear. I think that what the mayor said about the UFT and the NRA is something that should never have been said. I couldn’t disagree more strongly with the mayor,” said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is considered to be the front-runner in the mayoral race though she has not formally announced her candidacy.

In response to the mayor’s comments, Quinn and more than 60 local leaders signed a letter released Sunday, which said, “Such an offensive comparison not only vilifies New York City teachers, but also mocks the work they do.”

The letter goes on to say the remarks “show astonishingly poor judgment, and are unworthy of you, your position and your record.”

The signatures on the letter also included Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, and Comptroller John Liu.

“It is a comment and a sentiment that should not have been expressed and should not have in any way, shape or form be part of this important and complicated debate about teacher evaluation and I was proud to sign onto the letter,” Quinn said.

What do you make of Mayor Bloomberg’s comments?  Share your thoughts below…