Shielding intermittent rain with signs that read "Stop the Layoffs" and "Protect our Youth," more than 100 members of District Council 37 and some members of the City Council gathered on the steps of the Tweed Courthouse Wednesday afternoon, calling for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to spare 777 Department of Education jobs set to terminate this October.
“The bulk of the cuts comes down on our folks,” said Santos Crespo, president of Local 372 in District Council 37, the labor union whose members represent 95 percent of the affected positions. “We really want to know how much the city is going to save by firing the lowest-paid D.O.E. employees.”
Robert Jackson, a City Council member and chairman of the education committee, said the cost of these jobs -- positions such as crossing guards, cafeteria workers and playground aides -- is about $22 million, a small percentage of the Education Department’s approximately $19 billion budget.
He said that the City Council will continue to press the city to come up with more money throughout the month.
“Everyone should be communicating to put pressure on Bloomberg to forego these layoffs,” he said. “If they cannot find $22 million in a $19 billion budget, they’re not doing their jobs.”
City Hall responded that layoffs were necessary because of the city's continued budget deficit.
Pamela J. Armstrong, a school aide for 28 years at Louis D. Brandeis High School on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, said that another round of layoffs would stretch the 27 aides at her school beyond their capacity. And she is also concerned about providing for her family without a consistent paycheck.
As for the students, “They call us mamma, they call us grandma, they look forward to seeing us every day,” she said. “The teachers need to stay in the classrooms and teach -- who are they going to go to when we’re not there?”
Beth Fertig contributed reporting.