Bloomberg Budget Proposes Teacher Layoffs

Although $2 billion more than expected was collected in taxes, Bloomberg administration officials said the mayor will propose shrinking the size of the teacher workforce by more then 6,000 in his budget released Thursday, cuts due largely to slashes in state education funding.

The 6,166 reduction in teachers includes 4,666 layoffs and 1,500 positions that will go unfilled, according to administration officials.

In prior public appearances, the mayor said he's also looking to consolidate the city's 300 senior centers by one third. He's also called for reducing spending on capital projects by 20 percent across the board — a prospect City Council speaker and ally Christine Quinn earlier this week called unacceptable.

"The only thing worse than laying off teachers would be laying off the wrong teachers," Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson said.

The focus in this pre-speech leak from the administration is the reduction in teacher headcount, something the mayor has used in order to pressure state lawmakers to change rules that require teachers be laid off based on seniority, rather than merit.

In the run-up to his February 17 budget presentation, the number of teachers Bloomberg said may have be laid off varied, sometimes to the point of contradiction.

Here's how a few outlets described the mayor's estimation of how many teachers may be laid off.

"More than 21,000" reported the Wall Street Journal on January 29;

"[E]very teacher hired by the city over the last five years, 15,000 in all" reported the New York Times on January 30;

"[T]here are definitely going to be thousands of teacher layoffs. Unless there won't be," wrote on February 3;

The last time Bloomberg presented budget figures, back in November, he estimated the city would bring in $39 billion in taxes in Fiscal Year 2011, and $40.8 the following year.

But the New York City Independent Budget Office predicted a month later the city would bring in $540 million more in FY 2011 and $800 million more in FY 2011, according to Dough Turetsky, the chief of staff and communication director for the IBO.

Bloomberg and city officials still hope state lawmakers will restore funding to the city that was slashed in Governor Andrew Cuomo's budget. Bloomberg said the state is short-changing the city by more than $2 billion. Cuomo's budget director, Robert Megna, said the number is closer to $900 million, and notes the city has about $2 billion in a rainy day fund earmarked for future health care costs for pensioners.

Bloomberg and Cuomo do agree on one thing: both are resisting calls to renew, or raise taxes on high income earners.

Until the state passes their budget — which is due April 1 — much of the negotiation around the city budget — which is due two months later — will be tempered, according to City Council members. Until city officials know the size of the cut they're getting from Albany, they won't know how deeply they'll have to cut back services and reduce the work force.