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City Details Teacher Layoff Plan

Monday, February 28, 2011

The city has announced new school-by-school details of its plan to layoff more than 4,600 teachers as part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposed budget cuts.

About 80 percent of the city's more than 1,600 schools are affected. Fifty-four schools will lose at least 30 percent of their teachers because of rules requiring new teachers to be the first to go during layoffs. In some cases they'd be replaced by more senior teachers from other schools.

Schools expected to be especially hard hit include smaller new schools with many new teachers. At PS 627 in Brooklyn, 63 percent of the teachers would lose their positions, and at PS 369 in the Bronx, 43 percent would be out. Both schools have very low student achievement.

At PS 306 in Woodhaven, Queens, 10 of the school's 24 teachers would be eliminated because they're relatively new to the system. Parent Veronica Cruz says said she disagrees with this last in, first out union protection.

"I think they should definitely change that last in, first out rule," she said, adding that she prefers the mayor's proposal to use student test scores to figure out which teachers are most effective.

But kindergarten teacher Selena Gonzalez thinks the city is trying to create panic as part of a political strategy: "They're trying to put the newer teachers against the older teachers so that they can knock our union down," she said.

Most of the layoffs would target elementary school teachers, plus art and music teachers and physical education teachers with four years' experience or less. No special education or English as a Second Language teachers would lose their jobs. Schools on the Lower East Side, in Harlem, the South Bronx and around Corona, Queens, would be most affected because of their high concentrations of new students. Some schools, including PS 22 on Staten Island - whose student chorus performed at the Oscars on Sunday - would lose no teachers at all because all of their staffers have seniority.

The mayor proposed eliminating more than 6,100 teaching positions in total. Fifteen-hundred of those would be lost through attrition. But the remaining 4675 teachers would be laid off according to seniority.

Department of Education spokeswoman Natalie Ravitz said the "arbitrary standard" of last in, first out means merit doesn't matter and that Albany should change the law to keep the city's best teachers.

However, United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew called the mayor's layoff plan "fear mongering" and "irresponsible" at a time when the city has a surplus of billions of dollars.

"Mr. Mayor, stop playing games for your own political purposes and work with us on behalf of the children of New York City," he said.

Bloomberg has argued that he's already committed almost $1.8 billion to protecting the schools from cuts from Albany and the loss of $800 million in federal stimulus funds. He's been adamant about eliminating the last in, first out rule saying principals should be able to keep their best teachers. A few state lawmakers plan to introduce legislation to end the seniority protection, which may face an uphill climb in the Democrat-led Assembly.

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Comments [1]

Jonathan Joseph from Brookyn

"Schools will lose at least 30 percent of their teachers because of rules requiring new teachers to be the first to go during layoffs."
This is only part of the reason. The other reason is because the DOE has systematically avoided placing experienced and qualified teachers who have been excessed. Instead, they have been banished to the Absent Teacher Reserve, where--to borrow a favorite teachers' express--they do not work up to their potential.
If more of these teachers had been placed in permanent positions, and fewer newer teachers hired, the proposed layoffs would have a much gentler effect.
Yes, it is a shame that talented young teachers may have to be pushed aside; but it is also a shame that talented, experienced teachers are not being given the chance to contribute in accordance with their abilities.

Mar. 01 2011 02:32 PM

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