Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office

Chancellor Richard Carranza, Mayor Bill de Blasio and UFT head Michael Mulgrew in happier times, when a new contract for teachers was announced in 2018.

After Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday outlined the approach the New York City Department of Education plans to take in reopening schools come September, Governor Andrew Cuomo quickly said that the real decision was the state’s and would come in the near future. It was the second time in as many weeks that the governor’s office has tapped the brakes on the mayor’s efforts to sketch out a strategy for the city’s nearly one million public school kids.

The head of the city’s teachers union told WBAI’s Max & Murphy Show on Wednesday that the question wasn’t so much whether de Blasio or Cuomo was right, but what’s taken them both so long.

They’re both wrong. We’re late,” Michael Mulgrew said. “People don’t understand that if we have a regular school opening, no coronavirus, or anything, we start planning April 1st. This is July. The schools of New York City haven’t even received their budgets yet. We don’t even have the first run of a scheduling of students inside the building  which we can then move to meet the needs of the building. We are waiting too long.”

Timeline aside, Mulgrew said the blended learning model described by the mayor—under which students would spend some days each week learning in school and do online instruction on other days—could be made to work.

But the union leader also said the early days of the pandemic, when city and state officials held off closing schools and there was spotty adherence to protocols for dealing with confirmed cases in schools, had eroded trust.

It’s strained with city hall, there’s no doubt about it,” he said. “I try not to make it just about the mayor. The school system is not just the mayor, it’s the community. Schools belong to the community, it’s not the mayor’s school’s system so as long as we have checks and balances for these protocols to be followed, we should be alright. I’m looking for opportunities to make the relationship better because I think that’s my responsibility.” 

Hear our conversation with Mulgrew below, or listen to the full show, which includes an interview with the NYPD”s newly appointed commander for community affairs, Chief Joseph Maddrey:

UFT President Michael Mulgrew

Max & Murphy Full Show of July 8, 2020

With reporting by Anika Chowdhury and Ben Max

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