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Mayor’s seniority layoff bill stalled

Governor, Assembly speaker reject measure passed by Senate

The mayor’s drive to end seniority layoff rules that guarantee impartiality stalled — at least temporarily — on March 2 after the state Assembly and the governor expressed serious reservations with the Senate bill that was passed at Bloomberg’s behest.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said that the bill will not be considered in the Assembly. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that he favored instead building on the new statewide teacher evaluation system that the UFT and its state affiliate, NYSUT, negotiated with the state last May.

“The mayor tried to scare parents and teachers and divide communities in order to pass a bill that would take our schools back to the days when cronyism and bias determined which teachers got to keep their jobs,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “We stayed united and saw the Senate bill for what it was: a direct assault on schools and collective-bargaining rights and the mayor’s attempt to make us all at-will employees.”

In the 48 hours leading up to the Senate vote, UFT members sent thousands of faxes to their local senators, calling on them to defeat the bill supported by the mayor. On the day that Silver and Cuomo declared that they would not support the bill, 1,200 UFT members had descended on Albany for the union’s annual lobby day.

The governor announced plans to introduce legislation to accelerate implementation of the new teacher evaluation system. Under the current law, the new system was to take effect for all teachers in the 2012-2013 school year. The governor would like to apply the new standards to all teachers in all grades starting in September.

The UFT pushed for the change in the evaluation system and was instrumental in getting the new system passed as part of New York State’s successful Race to the Top grant application. The new system will establish specific criteria that incorporate multiple measures of evaluating teacher performance. The old system, by contrast, relied entirely on supervisory judgment. The details need to be hammered out in collective bargaining between the union and the DOE.

The governor defended his proposal in the face of Bloomberg’s criticism that it was not far-reaching enough.

“The bottom line is we need an alternative to ‘Last In, First Out’ which is an objective evaluation system — and once that is developed, we can replace LIFO,” Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto told the New York Post. “I do not agree, however, as our Republican colleagues advocate, that we should now disregard collective bargaining in this instance. New York is not Wisconsin.”

Mulgrew cautioned members that their political advocacy work was far from over.

“Despite the city’s $3.1 billion surplus, the mayor is not backing off his threat to lay off thousands of teachers — or his push to change the seniority layoff rules,” he said. “With class sizes already exploding, we need to continue to get the message out that layoffs would be an educational disaster.”

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