News stories

Mayor swings budget ax in anger over evaluations

Mayor Bloomberg on Jan. 29 spelled out the consequences of his failure to negotiate a new evaluation system for teachers with the union: heavy cuts to the city education budget.

New York City schools lost $240 million in state funding after the city failed to meet the governor’s Jan. 17 deadline. The city will lose a similar amount again next year if there is still no deal.

At a press conference to unveil his preliminary budget for the coming fiscal year, the mayor proposed cutting 700 teaching and counselor positions through attrition this year and another 1,800 next year. As in years past, he also threatened to cut thousands of city-financed child care slots. And he said he would make deep cuts to extracurricular and after-school programs and supply budgets.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew responded that students should not suffer for the mayor’s refusal to bargain in good faith with the union.

“Since it was Mayor Bloomberg who walked away from a teacher evaluation deal, the city should ensure that the lost $240 million comes out of central bureaucracy and bloated outside contracts, not classrooms and instruction,” he said.

Two days after the press conference, the mayor’s threat lost its punch when the governor vowed to implement binding arbitration to avoid a prolonged stalemate.

The mayor was short on specifics, spending much of his press conference and earlier budget testimony before the state Legislature attacking the UFT and deriding the evaluation deals adopted by other school districts across the state.

“Everybody is just interested in getting money and committing what I would call a fraud,” Bloomberg told state legislators.

Bloomberg once again did not set aside any money in reserve in the city budget to settle expired labor contracts. The entire unionized city workforce is now working under expired contracts as the mayor enters the final stretch of his third and last term.

The mayor’s preliminary budget is the opening salvo in the annual budget season, which lasts until the City Council agrees on a final spending plan by June 30. The mayor’s January plan typically undergoes many modifications over the course of the spring.

The DOE moved quickly to trim expenses after losing the $240 million in state aid expected as part of this year’s budget. In an email on Jan. 28, Chancellor Dennis Walcott told principals that he would take back any funds saved from this year, preventing them from rolling money forward for next year. He also said he would cut school aides’ and family workers’ hours by 30 minutes a day starting Feb. 13. In addition, he restricted both new hiring and the use of substitutes.

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