The latest example was reported by the Daily News yesterday:
New York's four Democratic mayoral candidates flew to the Ohio city at the request of the teacher's union president, Michael Mulgrew. They want his endorsement - and he wanted them to see an innovative program in Cincinnati's schools.
When Mulgrew, boss of the United Federation of Teachers, suggested the candidates accompany him to inspect a Cincinnati program bringing social services into public schools, they all complied.
Two of them - city Controller John Liu and Council Speaker Christine Quinn - had the city pick up the tab, maintaining that what they learned was relevant to their work as city officials.
The other Democrats, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and former Controller Bill Thompson paid for the trip with campaign funds.
The journey was a chance to spend more time talking about the future of education with Mulgrew, who said he was also impressed that the candidates reached out to him after Superstorm Sandy and stood with him in cleaning up the wreckage.
"Where I come from, standing side by side in the mud, going out on a trip with no media coverage, finding things that are really going to work (for schools is what's) going to make a difference in my mind," said Mulgrew, a Staten Islander whose home suffered flood damage.
Mulgrew does have his limits. He said Republican candidate Tom Allon offered to underwrite a jaunt to Finland to scrutinize its education system after Mulgrew talked about it in a speech - but the union boss said he thought that was a bit much and declined.
The article goes on to describe the "desperation" the mayoral candidates are showing as they suck up to various power brokers, union heads and members of Al Sharpton's family in a bid to garner an early endorsement.
I can't speak to that stuff, but I will note that in this wooing of the mayoral candidates game, Mulgrew is clearly laying out his strategy for the future of the city schools (and even the new teacher evaluation system.)
In the next mayoral administration, Mike Mulgrew thinks he will be a power broker with more input into how the school system is run.
Now I think he's delusional because once one of these candidates gets elected, you can be sure the DFER's and Students First NY and the rest of the hedge fundie/education reform movement will make sure that many of Bloomberg's policies will continue unabated - and they'll put a ton of money behind those efforts.
Maybe if Liu gets elected, the DFER's and the rest of the corporate reformers will be shut out of City Hall, but you can bet that if Quinn, de Blasio or Thompson is elected, Mulgrew will have a lot less influence over policy than he thinks he will.
From what I can see, the strategy the UFT is currently running around APPR and closures and all the other damaging Bloomberg policies is to wait out Bloomberg and try and undo the worst damage once Bloomberg is gone.
It's a short-sighted strategy because it assumes that the next mayor will be open to undoing the damage.
If Bloomberg and his Students First NY group, along with the DFER's and the other hedge fundies have their way, you can bet that will not happen because they will make it clear they do not want it to happen.
It's true that political pressure and parent outrage over the worst excesses of the Bloomberg policies might mitigate some things, but frankly, if the UFT cannot frame an alternative vision of what the public education system should like - one that explains very clearly why high stakes testing, a fear-based teacher evaluation system based upon value added measurements of those tests and an unworkable observation rubric, 30+ school closures a year, and mayoral control can no longer be the policy in New York City - then they cannot fight for an alternative to the Bloomberg policies.
It's great that Mulgrew took the candidates to Cincinnati to see public schools with social wrap-around services.
I am a huge fan of schools with wrap-around services and I think giving schools support like that would go a long way toward improving student performance and academic achievement.
But Mulgrew and the UFT need to put out an alternative vision of what the school system should look like and tell the public and parents why we should move toward that vision.
Students First NY and the DFER's think nothing of putting up ads (usually dishonest ones) touting the wonders of test score-based accountability and fear-based teacher evaluations.
Why won't Mulgrew spend some union funds on counter ads explaining that kind of system is harmful to students, teachers and schools and putting forth a vision for schools that would benefit students - one with low class sizes, social wrap-around services, a rich, diverse curriculum, a plethora of after school activities, and partnerships with local businesses that provide job and learning opportunities for students?
I suspect that Mulgrew and Company don't really have that alternative vision of the school system or public education but rather have a watered down one from what Bloomberg and Cuomo and Obama have.
Watching how the UFT and the NYSUT supposedly battle the reforms pushed by those guys, you really only see a half-hearted attempt by the unions to push back.
It's like they're trying to make it look like they're fighting this stuff without actually fighting it.
Which brings me back to the mayoral candidates and the trip to Cincinnati.
It's fabulous that Mulgrew is getting some attention from the prospective mayoral candidates for an alternative program for schools.
But why can't he share that vision with the public at large?
They ought to be running commercials non-stop touting an alternative vision of schools - one that promotes low class sizes, social wrap-around services, a rich, diverse curriculum, a plethora of after school activities, and partnerships with local businesses that provide job and learning opportunities for students.
Instead they run this kind of thing.
That's a nice little ad - but what does it really tell the public other than teachers are dedicated to their students?
It's the kind of ad you run when things are slow in the news - not the kind of ad you run when your entire existence is under attack from the corporate education reform movement.
It's important to communicate to the public that teachers are dedicated to their students - but nowhere near as important as communicating a coherent alternative vision to the current corporate reform public education system.