Why is Cathie Black so unpopular, and why is the DOE scrambling for evidence of parent support?

Today's NY Post features a column about Cathie Black's abysmal approval ratings of only 17%; more on the Quinnipiac poll results, including the fact that only 28% of NYC public school parents now approve of Bloomberg, while 61% disapprove of him here.

As to Ms. Black, I think it’s interesting to analyze why her approval ratings are so low.

Nothing she has said or done is objectively worse than Joel Klein, and in a few cases, she seems to have pulled back from some of the most controversial choices that he likely would have made: reversing the closing of PS 114, and deciding to put the KED charter in Tweed for just one year and then give it back to the community for their exploding number of Kindergarten students. In contrast, Klein seemed to relish putting his thumb in the eyes of parents and local electeds.

Moreover, in my view, Cathie Black's public persona is not nearly as objectionable as his was. Truly, she was unqualified for the job, but so was Joel Klein, in every way imaginable. He was a non-educator and a non-manager, and had zero people skills besides .

My speculation is that she is even more unpopular than Klein results from a few developments:

Klein’s approval ratings were always the lowest of any NYC public figure, but for many years, he and Bloomberg coasted on two things: school budgets that were generally increasing each year (though much of the increase was spent on the wrong programs) and rising state test scores (which activists knew were a fraud but managed to assuage most parents that their kids were doing well.)

Then the mayor starting cutting budgets for schools, and last summer, the test score bubble burst. Suddenly, Bloomberg and Klein had nothing to fall back on. Terrible relationships with parents and the community, rising class sizes and overcrowding, policies based on high-stakes testing, school closings and charter co-locations – all of which most public school parents despise, with good reason. And the DOE finally lost all credibility with even those people who don’t spend their time paying attention to what’s really going on.

This is why the DOE is so desperately scrambling for support in the parent community, and, as it was recently revealed, resorted to trying to get parent coordinators to persuade "Happy Harrys" to show up at PEP meetings, rather than the furious parents that normally appear at these shouting fests. They also asked PCs to get parents to sign a petition, supporting their controversial proposal to end teacher seniority protections. Even if parent coordinators tried to gather parent support, they will find it nearly impossible to do so.

Cathie Black, fairly or not, is reaping the results of nine years of wrong-headed education policies, as well as open contempt for the views and priorities of parents. Unless she makes a determined effort to change these policies , I don’t know how she -- or Bloomberg -- can possibly recoup.

What do you think about the reasons for her low approval rating -- as well as Bloomberg's? Please leave a comment below.

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