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Teachers Union Trusted More than Bloomberg, Poll Finds

By Jill Colvin | February 8, 2012 3:17pm
Mayor Bloomberg delivers testimony before the joint session of the Assembly Ways and Means and the Senate Finance Committees.
Mayor Bloomberg delivers testimony before the joint session of the Assembly Ways and Means and the Senate Finance Committees.
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Flickr/Kristen Artz

MANHATTAN — More New Yorkers trust the teachers' union than the mayor when it comes to education, according to a poll released Wednesday.

The Quinnipiac University poll showed that 56 percent of those polled trusted the United Federation of Teachers to "protect the interests" of public school kids, versus less than a third who said they trusted Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The number was even higher among public school parents, where the split was nearly 70 percent for the union and just 22 percent for the mayor.

Overall, more than 60 percent of those polled said they disapproved of the mayor’s handling of public schools. Less than a quarter thought his takeover of city schools has worked out well.

But the poll also found overwhelming support for many of Bloomberg's latest initiatives, including his proposals to make it easier to fire bad apples while offering a $20,000 bump in salary for the best teachers and a $25,000 bonus to help educators pay off student loans.

"Mayor Michael Bloomberg has proposed a bonus for new teachers to help pay off their student loans and $20,000 extra pay for those doing a good job and voters agree with both ideas," Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said in a statement. 

The apparent split led Carroll to conclude that, when it comes to education, "Voters like the message; they just don’t like the messenger."

Voters were also torn on whether the union was playing a positive or negative role in improving the school system, with 47 percent in favor and 39 percent opposed. In Manhattan, the numbers were flipped, with only 39 percent in favor and 45 percent believing the union does more harm than good.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew hailed the results as evidence the mayor's office is off-track.

"I want to thank millions of public school parents and other New Yorkers who have given their teachers such a vote of confidence," he said in a statement. "Despite years of ugly rhetoric about teachers and their union from the mayor and his allies, New Yorkers come down overwhelmingly on the side of those who go into schools every day and work hard to make children's lives better."

Bloomberg, meanwhile, was mostly dismissive of the numbers, blaming them on the UFT's new TV ad blasting his education record.

"Somebody goes and runs a bunch of ads every day on television, you can create exactly that poll. I guess I could go spend some money and reverse the poll," Bloomberg said, adding that a lot depends on how poll questions are asked.

The mayor did release a commercial touting his record in response to a UFT attack ad last year.

Still, Bloomberg said he was pleased to see broad support for so many of his latest ideas.

"What was comforting is the public agreed with the individual policies of finding ways to reward the best teachers, finding ways to help attract teachers from the best schools at the top of the class to come to teach in our school system," he said.

The poll comes as the city and union are butting heads over a new teacher-evaluation system, which would be used in teacher-firing decisions.

The poll also found that Bloomberg’s overall approval rating stands at 46 percent, a slight slip from mid-December. But the vast majority, 68 percent, said they believed history will treat Bloomberg as either a "good" or "excellent" mayor. He had his strongest support in Manhattan, where nearly 80 percent of those polled said he’ll be judged kindly.

As for his potential successors, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn led with a 53 percent approval rating, followed by Public Advocate Bill de Blasio at 42 percent and Comptroller John Liu, who has been embroiled in a campaign finance scandal, at 40 percent.

The poll also asked voters about the city’s efforts to ban churches from renting space in public schools. Nearly 60 percent said they thought the plan was misguided, with near-identical support from Democrats and Republicans.

The survey of 1,222 registered voters, conducted from Jan. 30 to Feb. 5, has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.