New York City voters overwhelmingly say the next schools chancellor needs education experience more than management experience, by a margin of 64 to 26 percent according to a new poll by Quinnipiac University.
"Do New Yorkers approve of the Black appointment? Does she have the right experience? No and no," says Maurice Carroll, director of the Connecticut-based Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
When asked specifically about Mayor Bloomberg's pick of publishing executive Cathie Black, 47 percent disapprove of the mayor's choice, while the rest are split between approving (29 percent) and undecided (25 percent). Voters with children in public schools disapprove of Black's appointment by a higher margin of 62 to 25 percent.
Bloomberg's approval rating has also fallen to 55 percent, the lowest Quinnipiac has tracked since 2005.
"The City Hall spin machine better shift into high gear," adds Carroll. "So far, all the negative news stories are murdering Cathleen Black — and not doing Mayor Michael Bloomberg much good, either."
Carroll says the only good news is that 25 percent of voters are undecided about Black's appointment, though that number drops substantially among the parents of children in public schools (13 percent).
Mayor Bloomberg has repeatedly said he chose Black because of her 40 years of experience in high-profile and demanding management jobs, most recently as President and then Chairman of Hearst Magazines. He says that experience is needed as the school system gears up for more budget cuts. In response to the poll, he told reporters Tuesday that he was confident he picked the right person just as he did in selecting outgoing Chancellor Joel Klein, who was a lawyer.
"I think you'll find three years from now they'll look back and say this was the woman that, you know, we had a great pitcher for the first seven innings, we bring in the closer for the last couple of innings and this was the right closer to bring in."
The mayor has also argued that Black will be surrounded by educators to guide her policy choices.
Voters are also split about the current state of the city schools, according to the poll. They disapprove of the way Bloomberg is handling the schools by a margin of 48 to 41 percent (this number has bounced around over the years with anywhere from 35 to 57 percent approving of Bloomberg's running of the schools). And 63 to 25 percent, they say they're not satisfied with public schools citywide. For a dose of perspective, those numbers were even worse in 2005 when 74 percent were not satisfied with the schools.
Outgoing Chancellor Klein fared better. New York voters in the poll say Klein's tenure has "mainly been a success," by a margin of 46 to 35 percent. That 46 percent approval rating of Klein held steady among public school parents, too, though 40 percent thought the chancellor's tenure had been mainly been a failure.
The poll of 1,287 New York City registered voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points. It was conducted between November 16-21, the week after Bloomberg's November 9th surprise announcement that he had chosen Black to replace Joel Klein.
Meanwhile, an eight-member panel appointed by the state education commissioner will meet in Manhattan today to review whether Black deserves a waiver from rules requiring a chancellor to have education credentials. The panel will make its non-binding recommendation to commissioner David Steiner. It's not known when Steiner will make his final decision. The Bloomberg administration is hoping for Black to take the new post by January.