Bad news for teachers in Bloomberg's budget

February 17, 2011 3:12:55 PM PST
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says the city has no choice but to reduce the teacher workforce because of cuts in federal and state aid. Bloomberg said the city needs to make up a forecasted $600-million shortfall to balance the budget.

Under the preliminary plan, the mayor calls for cutting more than 6,000 public school teaching jobs through layoffs and attrition.

Bloomberg laid out his planned city budget for 2012, and about 8 percent of teachers could find themselves out of work.

Bloomberg says 4,600 cuts will come through layoffs, with the other 1,500 through attrition.

The mayor said that education remains the top priority for the future of the city. He said the city will spend $2.1 billion more on education than it did last year, but the cuts in aid are forcing the administration to pick up more of the tab.

"We can't compensate for the full loss in State funding. So if we have to lay teachers off, we have to ensure we can keep the very best," Bloomberg said.

He is hoping for some help from Albany, calling on the state to make cuts equitable.

"We're ready to do our part to help the State, but we don't deserve to be penalized for our responsible actions. If the State does not come through, layoffs and service cuts will be more severe," he said.

When asked if he thought the proposed 6,000 figure was more of "a may" or "a reality," the mayor said it was more of a reality because it "would be a struggle" to make up the $600-million.

Since taking office, Mayor Bloomberg has more than doubled city spending on schools, and while spending will increase again this year, he said the loss of aid leaves no other choice but to cut jobs.

"If you look back at our history in New York City, we didn't go to the brink of bankruptcy overnight in 1975. It took more than a decade of bad decisions to get there and I will not let that happen again," he said.

The teachers union questions whether Bloomberg's playing a game of chicken - that the cuts won't really happen, but if they do, teachers predict chaos.

"But this is what I know if you have 6,000 fewer teachers, you're going to see class sizes we haven't seen since 1976," FUT President Mike Mulgrew said.

The mayor's new hand-picked schools chancellor did not sound overly optimistic about the changes coming, saying she thought the proposed cuts would happen.

"We want to make sure the best and most effective teachers are the ones in front of the classroom," Cathie Black said.

On top of school cuts, 20 fire companies across the city would close this year..

"Twenty companies, I've said this in the past, would impact our operations severely and response times would increase," FDNY Commissioner Sal Cassano said.

Due to federal cuts, the mayor is proposing a 15 percent reduction in the number of child day care seats, affecting more than 16-thousand low-income kids.

Also out are 256 senior centers. Between 100 and 110 would be forced to close soon.

The commissioner of the Department for the Aging was clearly upset.

"It's gonna be brutal. The system is going to be cut in half in a span of two years," Lilliam Barrios-Paoli said.

The mayor says he might not be finished with all the chopping. Yet he refuses to raise taxes.

"I determined to hand this city over to my successor on sound fiscal footings, not just in the short run, but also in the long run," he said.