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UFT, parents stand with school support staff targeted for layoff

The affected workers and their supporters decry how students in the poorest neig Bruce Cotler The affected workers and their supporters decry how students in the poorest neighborhoods will be hardest hit by the loss of support staff.

With the city Department of Education announcing the layoff of almost 800 school support staff, including aides, parent coordinators, lunchroom workers, bus coordinators, crossing guards and others, UFT Secretary Michael Mendel joined affected workers, other union leaders, elected officials and parents in denouncing the budget-cutting move at a protest outside DOE headquarters on Sept. 7.

Mendel expressed dismay that the Bloomberg administration would refuse to advocate for a millionaire’s tax, instead opting to cut the jobs of some of the school system’s lowest-paid workers. Mendel called the targeted workers “part of the foundation of our schools, and the DOE is ripping out that foundation. Soon the whole structure could topple.”

Mayor Bloomberg said the layoffs, which would take effect the first week in October, were needed to cut 2.43 percent from each school’s budget. No UFT member will be laid off.

“The school staff workers being laid off are the ones who directly take care of our highest-need disabled children, yet Mr. Bloomberg seeks to terminate them and further jeopardize our children’s education,” said Mona Davids of the New York City Parents Union, which organized the press conference.

Critics of the layoffs argued that savings could better come from eliminating consultant contracts, and that cutting support staff would disproportionately affect workers and schoolchildren in high-needs areas of the city.

Speakers at the protest also reiterated the need for extending the millionaire’s tax and called for a full accounting of DOE spending on outsourced jobs. Such measures, they said, would more than offset the cost of keeping vital school jobs.

Santos Crespo, the president of Local 372 of AFSCME District Council 37, noted that most of the job losses would be felt in East New York, Brownsville, Williamsburg, Washington Heights, the South Bronx and Harlem.

“These communities are already in need of enhanced social services and are suffering high unemployment,” he said. “Where’s the economic sense in that?”

Local 372, which represents the lion’s share of the workers losing their jobs, plans to hold additional protest rallies and press conferences throughout the five boroughs this month.

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