Mayor's New Budget Protects Teaching Jobs

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There is good news for city schools in the executive budget that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg will unveil on Thursday, Gotham Schools reports.

As Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott had promised, the budget will not include cuts to schools, reversing a trend in the last several years of reductions that led to layoffs of support staff last year and a reduction in the teaching staff.

Under the new $68.7 billion budget, which the City Council has to approve by July 1, the size of the city's teaching force will not be reduced through attrition -- quitting, retirements, deaths or promotions.

It was a relief to many who had feared a further reduction of staff -- and perhaps a continued rise in class sizes, Gotham reports.

In each of the last two years, the city has narrowly avoided teacher layoffs but has still seen the number of teaching positions drop because of attrition, last year by 1,800 spots. For next year, a hotly debated line in the mayor’s preliminary budget called for the city to leave about many teaching spots unfilled. The city pegged the reduction at about 1,100 positions, but City Council members said the real shortfall would have cost 2,500 jobs.

The Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn, said council members tried to draw a line in the sand, Gotham reports: “In the Council’s budget response, we articulated very significant concern about the level of proposed attrition within the department of education,” Quinn said.

Gotham goes on to say:

The Council sources could not say whether deep cuts slated for after-school programs would be rolled back. Advocates have been pressing the city to restore some of the proposed after-school cuts, including with a barrage of phone calls this week, and are planning a rally on the steps of City Hall for moments after the executive budget presentation on Thursday.

But Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, reveled for the moment in the budget news related to teachers, Gotham Schools says: “We’ve lost thousands of teachers over the last three years to attrition, and class size is higher than it has been for decades. As the city stabilizes its teacher losses — and ideally starts hiring more — we should be able to start bringing those class sizes down.”

Education is likely to be a decisive issue in next year's mayoral elections, and The New York Times is reporting that a high-profile -- albeit controversial -- figure in New York City education is seriously considering stepping into the ring.

Eva S. Moskowitz, leader of the Success Academy charter schools, has been mentioned by some city Republicans as their possible candidate. But Ms. Moskowitz has thoughts of her own:

Ms. Moskowitz said in an interview that she was still considering a bid for mayor and would decide in the next month or so, but that she would run as a Democrat. Among the factors that would determine her decision, she said, was whether any of the Democrats expected to run — Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker; Bill de Blasio, the public advocate; William C. Thompson Jr., a former city comptroller; and Scott M. Stringer, the Manhattan borough president — articulated what she considered strong policies on education.

“If a candidate came out really strongly in favor of reform, that would certainly influence my perspective,” she said.

Inside Schools reports that advocates for special education students are puzzled about the city's decision to exempt 27 high schools next fall from new city rules that require schools to admit more special education students.

On the exemption list are elite schools like Bard, Baruch and Eleanor Roosevelt in Manhattan. More generally, Inside Schools reports:

The schools given exemptions fall into three categories: the city's 14 International schools that serve new immigrants; seven schools that require auditions; and six hyper-competitive academically screened schools. (An additional nine specialized high schools, governed by state law, are also exempt.)

Maggie Moroff of Advocates for Children told Inside Schools: "It just doesn't sit right. The D.O.E. has the same obligations to provide these schools with the support to meet all students' needs."

Besides the mayor's budget announcement, here are some events related to education going on around the city on Thursday:

From 9:30 to 10:30 a.m., Public School 197 John B. Russwurm in Harlem will hold an event to promote healthy eating. Dr. Jeff Gardere, a TV personality, and Susie Q., a fitness expert, along with the Touro College Children’s Health Education Foundation, will help students "launch a citywide school-based initiative to teach their parents the value of substituting water for sugary beverages." The school is at 2230 Fifth Avenue at 135th Street, Manhattan.

The Fiver Children’s Foundation, an organization that provides support and services to under-served city schoolchildren, will hold its 10th annual Fiver Benefit at Bridgewaters at the South Street Seaport. Current and former Fivers will be present and will partake in the program.

And, teachers, you are invited to a SchoolBook event on May 8 at the Greene Space/WNYC -- a workshop on incorporating real-life events into the classroom. You can reserve a free ticket here and learn more about the topic under discussion from the Learning Network here and here.