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The Empire

Bloomberg: state 'must' combine school cuts with rules change

Mayor Bloomberg wants Governor Cuomo to end teacher seniority rules. (azi paybarah / wnyc)

Governor Cuomo is, reportedly, not eager to embrace Michael Bloomberg's call to change laws that require teacher layoffs be based on seniority, rather than merit, known as Last In, First Out.

It's an important rule, considering all the cuts Cuomo is expected to announce when he unveils his budget on Tuesday.

At a church this morning, Bloomberg kept pressing his case.

"I say: Enough with Albany rules. You just cannot do this. If the Governor's budget contains education cuts, it must also contain changes to the law so that we can take merit into account when making these difficult decisions," Bloomberg said, according to a transcript sent out by a spokesman.

Date: January 30, 2011
Location: 120-20 Flatlands Avenue at Louisiana Avenue, BROOKLYN
Event: Speaks at the Christian Cultural Center Morning Service

One of our biggest immediate challenges is the State budget. Governor Cuomo is my friend, and I know he has our support as he grapples with many of the challenges he finds in Albany.

For far too long, our State government has not worked for New Yorkers, and I believe Andrew Cuomo can change that and I look forward to working with him to reform New York.

On this coming Tuesday, the Governor will release his budget. It is expected to contain deep cuts, especially to our schools. But make no mistake about it, we will fight, as we always have, to ensure that the City schools get fair treatment from Albany. Nevertheless, we may, for the first time in decades, be forced to lay off some teachers. And what is worse, under current State law that would prohibit us from taking merit into account when we make those layoff decisions. And instead- the State law says they have to be based on seniority only, and that would mean laying off some of our best teachers, while keeping some that just aren’t the people we want in front of our kids.

Depending on the size of the cut, it’s conceivable that we would have to lay off nearly ever teacher hired in the last five years – the ones who are the very future of our school system. This is serious. I keep talking about this and people don’t understand how serious it is.

The layoffs, incidentally, would be felt most heavily in the city’s poorest neighborhoods, where schools tend to have the newest teachers.

So we have to really do something about this. We have to fight and make sure that we try to find other revenue sources, we have to make sure that we get treated as fairly as we can from Albany. Across this city, layoffs would send exactly the wrong message to our kids. You know, we tell them: Work hard, play by the rules, you can rise as far as your talents can take you. And yet Albany rules say that when it comes to teaching, talent doesn't matter, results don't matter. The only thing that matters is how long you’ve been in the system.

And I say: Enough with Albany rules. You just cannot do this. If the Governor's budget contains education cuts, it must also contain changes to the law so that we can take merit into account when making these difficult decisions. It must allow us to keep our best teachers. We’ve worked too hard these last years to improve our schools – and I can just tell you I will be out there fighting with every breath I have to make sure we can keep that progress going because teachers really have been at the heart of that progress. And I know there are a lot of great teachers in this organization. Some of you may have only done the job for a few short years. Others have long years of experience.

In either case: I just wanted to say thank you for everything that you are doing for our young people, in our classrooms, every day.