Bloomberg calls for 5,000 teacher layoffs in city budget

Mayor Bloomberg In his Feb. 17 budget address threatened nearly 5,000 teacher layoffs come September — the largest since the 1970s fiscal crisis — even as he called education his “number one priority.”

“Playing politics with people’s lives is an ugly, shameful act, and that is exactly what Mayor Bloomberg is doing by continuing to raise the specter of layoffs,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said in response. “His efforts to scare newer teachers and demonize veteran teachers do nothing to help children or support the work that we do every day.”

Noting that the city schools were already reeling from prior rounds of budget cuts, Mulgrew called on the mayor to demonstrate his commitment to schools by supporting an extension  the millionaire’s tax.

“We’ve already lost nearly 5,000 teachers to attrition in the last two years, and class sizes are skyrocketing across the city,” Mulgrew said. “It’s time the mayor joined us in fighting for the children of our city by supporting the extension of the state millionaire’s tax.”

In the opening salvo of the city’s 2011-12 budget season, the mayor said that the DOE would have to reduce the teaching force by 6,000 — 4,666 through layoffs and the rest through attrition. He targeted no other public employees for layoff.

The mayor said that cuts to state and federal aid to the city left him little choice but to get rid of teachers and cut school spending, as well as close 20 firehouses and half of all senior centers, eliminate more than 16,000 daycare slots, and cut capital projects.

Yet at the same time, the mayor conceded that the city’s finances were not as dire as they were two years ago, with revenues up almost $2 billion over earlier projections. The city’s current surplus is more than $3.1 billion, the mayor said.

Bloomberg’s teacher-layoff threat contrasted sharply with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s comments in his state budget address in January that layoffs would “absolutely” not be necessary.

“The mayor’s stance is very telling of his true motives: He wants to do layoffs to force the issue of how layoffs get done. He wants to pit parents against parents and teachers against teachers. And he wants to give tax breaks to his wealthy friends at the expense of our schools,” said Mulgrew.

The mayor also used his executive budget proposal to square off politically with the governor, public employee unions and state legislators on pensions and layoff rules.

Bloomberg used the grim state budget outlook to call for changes in state law that would give the city more control of its expenses. Specifically, he asked the state to give the city authority to negotiate pensions as part of city worker contracts and let him control which teachers are laid off. 

The mayor wants to require new public employees to work until age 65 before they can retire without severe financial penalties.

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