The United Federation of Teachers announced Friday that it was endorsing Mark Levine in the race for a Morningside Heights City Council seat, adding another big name to a growing list of local politicos and unions that have voiced their support for the Democratic district leader.
“As a former UFT member—and as a public school parent—Mark has a deep understanding of the needs of our schools and the critical role played by teachers,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said in a statement. “As a Councilmember he will be a leader in fighting for students, teachers, and the education system as a whole, and we are proud to endorse him.”
The formal support of the UFT, which boasts a membership of 200,000 New York public school teachers, represents a major coup for Levine, who began his career as a bilingual teacher in the Bronx and later worked as the executive director of Teach for America in New York.
“Having been in the classroom myself, I know first hand just how tough teaching is. And I also know that we need to do everything we can to support the professionals who have dedicated their career to helping shape young minds,” Levine said in the statement. “I look forward to working with the UFT to achieve this goal, and couldn’t be prouder to have their endorsement.”
Levine said in an interview that his past work within the public school system, as well as the relationships he had developed with school officials, made him an attractive choice for the union.
The race for District 7, which also includes Manhattanville, Hamilton Heights, and parts of Washington Heights and the Upper West Side, will likely focus heavily on education, as well as affordable housing and economic development.
In addition to the UFT, Levine has received support from a number of other labor unions in the district, including United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1500, the Uniformed Fire Officers Association, and Communication Workers of America Local 1180.
“These are people I also have relationships with,” Levine said. “I have been in the trenches with them fighting for labor for many years.”
Candidate Mark Otto, an assistant principal at Facing History School in midtown Manhattan, has based his campaign predominantly on his education reform proposals, saying that local schools provide the most fundamental solution to economic development issues in the district.
Otto said in an email Monday that he was disappointed he had not received the UFT endorsement. Although he was not “thoroughly surprised” that Levine won the union’s support, he vowed to keep educational reform the cornerstone of his campaign.
“I have been an educator for 10 years and have the support of hundreds of teachers in my district and all across NYC,” Otto said. “Now, as both a teacher and vice principal, I know well our system’s strengths and weaknesses. I’m the only candidate who brings to the table a current, comprehensive approach to make our public school system better.”
Levine has also received endorsements from prominent political figures including Bill de Blasio, the city’s public advocate, and Scott Stringer, the borough president of Manhattan.