A significant rift has developed between UFT President Mike Mulgrew and NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi, with the downstate teachers union honcho backing a slate of challengers against his statewide counterpart’s leadership team.

Mulgrew announced his support yesterday on the website of “REVIVE NYSUT” – the insurgent arm of the statewide teachers’ union that is challenging Iannuzzi and his allies in a fight for the NYSUT leadership. The opposition slate includes Andy Pallotta, NYSUT’s current executive vice president and a Mulgrew ally.

“We support the REVIVE NYSUT Unity slate,” Mulgrew wrote. “We have heard the voices from locals across the state and agree with their call for change.”

UPDATE: Pallotta is the REVIVE member who is drawing the most attention, due, I believe, to his Bronx roots and his alliance with Mulgrew. But he is seeking re-election to his current post. The presidential candidate challenging Iannuzzi is Karen McGee, a NYSUT Board member and president of the Harrison Association of Teachers in Westchester County.

Pallotta et al also has the support of NYSUT’s former executive vice president, Alan Lubin, who wrote on the REVIVE website:

“Four incumbents say ‘Now is not the time to change leadership.’ That’s an argument used in Union elections since the beginning of time. (Including by me, in the past!). We are past that argument now. The REVIVE NYSUT leaders argue for new approaches, new coalitions, and improved outreach and much more involvement and input from locals across the state to bring NYSUT to a higher level.”

NYSUT’s internal power struggle has been the talk of education blogs for several weeks now, but so far has failed to break through into the mainstream media. The fight recently surfaced when state Education Commissioner John King suggested during a CapTon interview that Iannuzzi’s motive for advancing a “no confidence” vote against the commissioner might be more about problems within his own house and less about unhappiness with the Board of Regents’ implementation of the controversial Common Core curriculum.

Common Core – or, more specifically, its impact on the controversial teacher performance evaluation process (which, by the way, both NYSUT and the UFT signed off on) – is indeed a source of consternation among NYSUT members, especially on Long Island, where opponents have been particularly vocal. This is one of the prime examples offered by the anti-Iannuzzi faction about why the current leadership team needs to go.

But there’s also chatter that what this is really all about is an effort by the UFT to wrest control of its parent union once and for all. This theory is primarily being pushed by the pro-Iannuzzi faction, which thinks Mulgrew, who has a close relationship with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, is particularly miffed that Iannuzzi is apparently unwilling to even entertain the possibility of endorsing the governor for re-election this fall.

(Recall that NYSUT remained neutral in the 2010 governor’s race, as did several other unions. Cuomo hasn’t done much since he took office to improve his relationship with much of the labor community. If anything, that relationship has deteriorated, thanks to the passage of Tier 6 and the 2 percent property tax cap, as well as several contentious contract negotiations with public employee unions).

This is the final year of Iannuzzi’s three-year term. Technically speaking, the NYSUT elections take place in April, and since the UFT controls some 40 percent of the vote, the outcome is going to be close.

But the union is holding a board meeting tonight and tomorrow in Albany at which the topic of trying to avoid the coming bloodbath will no doubt be broached. I did reach Iannuzzi this afternoon, and asked if he would consider stepping aside to avoid a fight – epsecially given the fact that this is an important election year in which the union I’m sure wants to play a big role.

“I will be in this until the end,” Iannuzzi replied. “I’ve been part of NYSUT for 40-plus years, and I know what NYSUT is. It’s an organization that has a really delicate balance between New York City and the rest of the state. It won’t be NYSUT if this crowd takes over.”

Neither Pallotta nor Mulgrew has yet returned a call seeking comment.

Also this weekend, a group of some 50 NYSUT local leaders from around the state – basically, everywhere EXCEPT New York City – will be meeting separately at an Albany hotel to discuss their support of Iannuzzi, but also their vision for the future of the union and what it should look like going forward. This group of Iannuzzi backers also has a wesbite: StrongertogetherNYSUT.com.