Mayor Michael Bloomberg painted a bleak picture of deep budget cuts to the schools -- if the threats by state officials to withhold school aid are carried out. In addition to the loss of about 700 teachers due to attrition this year, there would be fewer substitute teachers and teachers' aides. And it only will get worse next year, he told Albany lawmakers on Monday.
“We can expect to lose more than 1,800 teachers through attrition next year – and that’s 1,800 fewer than we had planned on having. We will have to eliminate more than 700,000 hours of after-school programs, including academic help to the students who need it most. And we’ll have some $67 million less for essential school supplies," the mayor said.
Bloomberg was the first of many mayors who testified at a hearing on Gov. Andrew Cuomo's budget proposal. While he praised Cuomo for other items in the budget and did not criticize him directly on school aid, he blasted state education officials for withholding federal and state money because the city failed to reach a deal on a teacher evaluation plan with the United Federation of Teachers by the state-set deadline of Jan. 17.
The mayor called the cumulative effects of withholding funds "a staggering penalty, indeed."
“They could result in the loss of many hundreds of millions of dollars in Federal aid, Race to the Top monies, much of it meant to help high-needs, low-income students in our city. And most immediately, the budget the State Department of Ed is trying to push would eliminate some $724 million in State education aid to New York City schools over two years; that’s $250 million during the current budget year, the baseline for that in the next year, and another $227 million that is in the executive budget for the year 2014."
Assembly member Cathy Nolan of Queens, the chairperson of the education committee, pointedly asked the mayor why 99 percent of the other school districts from around the state were able to agree on evaluation plans by the deadline, but not New York City.
“Everybody else made an agreement but the city," she said.
But the mayor put the blame back in her court: "You passed a law that requires two annual ratings before a teacher gets a U and then you got to take a look and see whether or not they can get remedial help or not. Two years! You guys, you went and, that’s your law that you provided and you approved," the mayor said, repeating his criticism that the so-called sunset clause included in a potential city teacher evaluation deal rendered it useless.
"The deals that you are talking about are one-year deals. Can you explain to me how on earth anybody’s going to get evaluated? The law prohibits you from being evaluated in one year. These are just jokes Cathy!"
"What are we going to do now?" Nolan, who has a son in the public schools, asked. "What do I tell my son?"
"Cathy, you can change the law," he answered.