Klein details dire school situation due to budget cuts

March 24, 2010 2:41:33 PM PDT
New York's latest budget cuts could be really bad news for city schools. Cutbacks in state aid would mean schools would be forced to layoff thousands of teachers.

On Wednesday, schools chancellor Joel Klein testified how deeply the cuts would impacts schools.

Last year, the federal stimulus saved some 14,000 teachers. This year, there is no stimulus. State aid is being cut, and the teachers and their students will not be nearly so lucky. The worst-case scenario is truly startling, as Klein detailed the "doomsday" school budget.

It includes thousands of layoffs and class sizes that haven't been seen since the 1970s. The details were portrayed in stark terms to the City Council Wednesday.

"Let me be clear with you. Under what you're calling a bad scenario, it would be bad, it would be bad," Klein said. "This is not like some excess fat. We'd have to try and manage it as best we could."

The chancellor said the single biggest reason is a drastic cutback in state aid being proposed in Albany.

The worst-case scenario would leave a $1.2 billion shortfall in New York's education budget, leading to some 8,500 layoffs. Hardest hit would be Upper East Side District 2 and South Bronx District 7.

In those schools, one in five teachers would be let go.

Citywide, average class sizes would top 25 in the lower grades and 30-plus in the upper grades.

Included in the layoffs are 15 percent of the city's English, math, science and social studies teachers. Some of them are among New York's best, because state civil service laws require seniority-based layoffs.

The president of the teachers' union told the City Council that every conceivable option should be on the table.

"The teachers have always been there, first and foremost, for the children of this city," United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew said. "(Concessions are) what they've always been willing to do. We will make things happen."

Klein said there is still time to avoid the worst of it, but not much. Both he and the union are urging state lawmakers to come through with more money. But at the moment, layoffs and larger class sizes appear unavoidable.