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Northeast Queens Reacts to Mayor's Plan to Layoff 4,666 Teachers

Austere budget proposal announced today calls for steep cuts to education, social services, capital spending

The fallout from Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposal to eliminate thousands of teaching positions in the city's public schools spread quickly throughout northeast Queens. 

Part of an austere budget plan to cover losses in state and federal funding, Bloomberg's presentation at noon Thursday included cuts not only to education, but social services, capital construction projects and the city's combined workforce.

But it was the proposal to cut 6,166 teaching positions — 4,666 of which would be done through layoffs — that quickly made the mayor's in months past more and more real, even among his most vocal critics.

"I could only hope that he’s just posturing and that the budget allows for him to avoid major layoffs of teachers or any city agencies," said Community District Education Council 26 president Rob Caloras.

The threatened layoffs also heated up the debate over education reform, most pressingly, regarding the state's "first-in, first-out" rule covering city teachers.

The mayor, former schools chancellor Joel Klein and others have made the case for keeping teachers based on merit evaluations — a process Caloras roundly criticized in the wake of today's proposed layoffs.

"It’s really despicable that he plays this game over and over again," Caloras said. "He’s yet to come up with a better way to assess teachers. He just relies upon test scores. It’s ludicrous."

A Bayside grandmother at Marie Curie Park today said she thought the "first-in, first-out" policy was a double-edged sword.

"If they're newer teachers just coming in, how good really are they?" said Barbara Burton, a former student at Flushing's P.S. 163 with granddaughters attending Saint Robert's in Bayside.

Another mayoral critic, state Sen. Tony Avella, D-Bayside, accused Bloomberg of harboring a "vendetta" against teachers.

"Clearly, there are ways to assimilate this cut without cutting teachers," Avella said.

According to Bloomberg, the cuts in education spending are necessary to close an estimated $4.58 billion deficit without raising taxes. 

Bloomberg also pointed the finger at Albany for the city's steep cuts in funding for education.

According to the mayor's office, the city's share of non-federal education spending rose from 50 percent in 2002 to 62 percent expected in 2012. In the same period, the city claims the state's share has declined from 50 percent to 38 percent.

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

Karen February 18, 2011 at 04:29 AM
I am a retired New York City teacher. I am more than distressed over the media coverage of the teachers. For example, last night there was a commercial on TV using a 22year veteran teacher and a relatively new teacher----nowhere in this commercial is it stated that these are teachers in charter schools. Charter schools undermine public education and teachers in charter school are not members of the union yet this is portrayed as teachers supporting this change. When Mayor Bloomberg gave the princiapls total control of their budgets corruption became rampant. You have no idea how many teachers get U ratings because a principal just decides they don't like you. I have a friend who received 12 straight years of "S" rating and works very hard but on the 13th year his principal decided he all of a sudden didn't know what he was doing!!!!! She gave him 2 of those S. I think the public doesn't know that teachers are not against getting rid of bad teachers, it's the subjective way it's done. You can't go by test scores. So many teachers have students who are in middle or high school and have gotten there without being taught how to read. Is that their fault? Yet, they are supposed to teach them the appropriate grade level cirriculum. How ludicrous! They have children who never do homework and have parents who are not really involved in their child's education. Is that the teacher's fault too? I have sooooooooooo much more to say.
jean quinn February 19, 2011 at 02:19 PM
What a tragic set of circumstances! Principals are having money removed from their school's educational funds.....teachers are being threatened with loss of jobs.....parents are being warned to watch and wait! I wonder what the ultimate result will be? Students will be in increased-sized classrooms with wonderful teachers who care about their students but who are frustrated in their efforts! Yes...I am a retired NYC teacher who is back in the classroom and enjoying every day that I sub.
Steve C. February 19, 2011 at 08:24 PM
Bloomberg is a business man. He thinks and acts only as a businessman. It's always been very easy to see that he finds it difficult to be a people person. Both he and his new chancellor Black think in terms of products and commodities. Nothing more. There is no human factor involved here, only what is best for the bottom line (i.e.-money and budgets). If he takes away one twenty year teacher and replaces that person with that (new and bright???) first year teacher he has halved the salary. He is saving money. He is balancing his books. That's the way a smart businessman thinks. However, we're not dealing in commodities here... it's children that are the focus. It's not the cost of salt for a snowstorm, it's a parents' most precious possession. I was in the system for 35 years... from teacher to principal and we've had some very anti education mayors in the past (Koch), but nothing comes even close to this arrogant, pious and unfeeling Bloomberg. He can't finish his term soon enough for me.
Rainey Duke February 22, 2011 at 03:32 AM
Perhaps the teachers should follow the protesters in Wisconsin. If all the tof them could get the 70,000 people that attended the Madison rallies, at least more people would pay attention to the problem. For some reason the tea party groups which are attempting to cut school funding do not realize or care about our children's education. Of the various countries of the world the New York Times recently posted in relation to math and science scores, the US was among the very lowest. While everyone seems to agree that education is the best way to create an informed public as well as improve our rapidly slipping world standing, those happy tea party fellows just smile and cut away.
Taxpayer N. Resident April 19, 2011 at 02:05 PM
Karen, first of all, thank you for all the minds you influenced and were able to teach. Not sure how long you have been retired but I feel today's teachers need so much more support as (some) parents have given up being parents in raising their children. Not that this is a blame game on parents. I feel our education system is a 3 way street starting with the parents, then the teachers and the school (DOE & Administration et al). While I find that when parents cannot insure their children are engaged at home to learn, it cannot be totally up to the teacher. What I have found through out my child's public school education (which started in the beginning of middle school, coming from parochial school) there have been some great teachers but, unfortunately, some lazy and not so bright teachers. To clarify my not so bright category, these were teachers who stopped learning, stopped being a professional in their development, do nothing more than what they have to to get by. Maybe they had a principal who let them ride the gravy train and "get by". They, hide behind the union protection AND tenure. While I am not anti union, being pro children I am not alone in the observations. What I see is the teachers & union, being the party of NO. They do not want accountability, they do not want quality (by definition) as they resist any evaluation (proposed and in place). Parents are not as engaged as they used to or should be. We hope for better times ahead.

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