Governor Andrew Cuomo said the state's last in, first out law is "not the best way to do layoffs" when it comes to the city's education system and he wants to help Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a fierce opponent of the law. But the governor isn't in any rush.
The mayor has said he will layoff more than 4,600 teachers because of budget cuts, and he's been urging Cuomo to support a law ending the last in, first out law — known as LIFO — which passed the state Senate earlier this week.
Cuomo said he's trying to help while being realistic given the timeline.
"This is a very complicated, heated topic," he told reporters Thursday after giving a speech about his budget on Staten Island. "And this is very important to the labor movement all across the state and all across this country. This is not an easy matter. And you can't do it without a law change. And Albany doesn't have a reputation for being the most expeditious vehicle to come up with new laws."
Cuomo also noted the "difference of opinions." While the bill has passed the Republican-led senate, it's unlikely to go anywhere in the Democrat-led assembly.
Given that landscape, Cuomo wants to speed up a new teacher evaluation system that was scheduled to begin next year in exchange for federal Race to the Top funds. Cuomo's proposal is to phase it in during the 2011-12 school year instead of over two years as originally planned. The evaluations would be based partly on student test scores and other factors. Cuomo noted that these evaluations would be used for both promotions and layoffs.
"There's a basic agreement that the current system, last in first out, is not the best way to do layoffs," said the governor, adding that there should be objective criteria that are "merit-based."
The teachers union resists giving up seniority protections because it fears principals will discriminate against more experienced and expensive teachers. The union has been a major supporter of Democratic lawmakers.
But the mayor has criticized Cuomo's system because it won't take effect until September and he needs to lay off teachers this spring. On Thursday, Bloomberg sounded more conciliatory, saying he's worked with Cuomo — who was previously Attorney General — for a long time.
"We both have exactly the same interests of getting the best teachers we can in front of the classroom," he said.
But he added that the city would need a total of $1billion from the state to prevent any layoffs because his current budget counts on $600 million from Albany that has yet to materialize.
Cuomo said it's still early and that he hopes to have a final state budget in place around the April 1 deadline. When asked about Bloomberg's criticism of his teacher evaluation plan, he said, "I think the mayor is or was frustrated in dealing with the legislative process in Albany. I understand how one could get frustrated dealing with the legislative process in Albany."
"I understand where the mayor wants to go," he added. "I am committed to helping him."