May 28, 2013
Christine Quinn won’t attend today’s education forum organized by a group that opposes the Bloomberg administration’s school policies, but Anthony Weiner and an advocacy group that backs Bloomberg’s policies will.
The lineup for the debate that New Yorkers for Great Public Schools will host at New York University today changed several times over the weekend, with tweaks announced in a frenzied series of press releases.
“In Quinn’s absence, Weiner and other candidates will be able to rebut her public positions on key education issues,” the group said in a press advisory this morning.
The advisory appeared to confirm the expectation that Quinn, who received a chilly reception at a New Yorkers for Great Public Schools event last year, would not have an easy time if she did participate in today’s debate.
On Monday evening, the group announced that Weiner, who has kept up a blistering pace after declaring his candidacy last week, had confirmed his attendance. The candidate — who is trying to reenter public life after a sexting scandal — entered the race with much of his education platform unclear but has steadily been filling in the blanks since.
The confirmation came hours after the group announced that Quinn had bowed out of the event. “Her Campaign Says it Does Not Want to do a Debate on Education,” a press release from New Yorkers for Great Public Schools said.
Billy Easton, the Alliance for Quality Education executive director who is a spokesman for NY-GPS, told Politicker that Quinn had withdrawn from the event at 6 p.m. on Friday, three days before the group sent out an updated press advisory. He said she was “running away from an opportunity to defend her record on education.”
Quinn’s campaign said the candidate had never communicated what the press release alleged.
“The organizers were informed last week we would not be able to make this one work,” spokesman Mike Morey said. “We have never said to them or anyone else we would not debate education issues. In fact we’ve participated in two education debates this month alone, on top of a total of 44 debates and forums during the course of the campaign.”
It isn’t the first education event Quinn has missed. Early this month, she sat out a Brooklyn forum organized by ParentVoicesNY, a group that formed to oppose the increasing role of standardized testing, and moderated by Diane Ravitch, a vocal critic of the Bloomberg administration’s school policies. That forum was more of an “accountability session” for candidates to swear their fealty to specific ideas than an open exchange, attendees said.
New Yorkers for Great Public Schools is billing today’s event as the “first education debate” because of its format, which will include several rounds of questions and opportunities for candidates to respond to each other. A spokeswoman, the public school parent activist Zakiyah Ansari, is moderating.
But the expectation is that candidates who side with the group’s agenda will receive a warmer reception. The group wants an end to school closures, a moratorium on co-locations of charter schools in public school buildings, and a reduction on spending on education contracts — policies on which Quinn stands apart from many Democratic candidates either in principle or by degree.
Organizers from StudentsFirstNY, which is advocating to preserve the Bloomberg administration’s school policies, are planning to host parents inside the Kimmel Center before the debate to “urge [candidates] not to turn back the clock on education policy.” In a press release, the group said, “At previous forums, the candidates have expressed views that are concerning,” citing pledges that would change the Bloomberg administration’s accountability and weaken mayoral control.