Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, escalating his battle with Albany over cuts to city programs, will announce plans to lay off nearly 4,700 teachers as part of a bleak budget to be released on Thursday.
Mr. Bloomberg will portray the reductions as necessary to make up for a loss of $2.1 billion in state aid. But his austere forecast will also serve a political purpose, given the mayor’s desire to wring more money out of the Legislature and to abolish a law that protects veteran teachers.
The mayor, according to a preview of his budget released on Wednesday, will threaten to eliminate 6,166 teaching positions in total: 4,666 through layoffs and 1,500 through attrition. That would reduce the 75,000-person teaching force by 8 percent, and it would be the first time the city has laid off significant numbers of teachers since the 1970s.
State law requires the city to lay off teachers in the reverse order that they were hired, but Mr. Bloomberg has said that merit should factor into the process. He has called on Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to incorporate changes to the law in his budget.
“We face very difficult decisions on how to balance the budget without harming the progress we have made,” Howard Wolfson, a deputy mayor, said in a statement. “The only thing worse than laying off teachers would be laying off the wrong teachers.”
Mr. Bloomberg is also expected to announce cuts to senior centers, child care programs for poor families and rental subsidies. But he is expected to affirm his pledge to leave the city’s police force intact.
Mr. Bloomberg will point to some bright spots in the city’s finances, despite a $2.4 billion deficit. He will report that because of the strengthening economy, the city has raised its forecasts for tax revenue by $2 billion for the current fiscal year and the one that begins on July 1.
His budget is far from final: it must still be negotiated with the City Council, and it is subject to the whims of Albany, which is notorious for back-room deals and missed deadlines.
Union officials have dismissed the mayor’s warnings as political jockeying meant to help him further his political agenda. Mr. Bloomberg has in previous years warned of mass layoffs that never transpired.
Mr. Bloomberg will also pledge to add $2 billion in city money to make up for the state cuts.
Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, the city’s teachers’ union, said the mayor should devote more money to education and increase taxes on the wealthy.
“I don’t understand why the mayor continues to be talking about teacher layoffs,” Mr. Mulgrew said. “This is all a politically bogus game on their behalf.”
Indeed it is politically jockeying on the mayor's part.
He doesn't REALLY care about the money.
Not in the short term.
This is about changing seniority and tenure rules in the long term.
In fact, the Daily News points out, the city has soaring tax revenues so layoffs may not be needed anyway.
But Bloomberg wants this fundamental structural change to layoff rules to weaken the union long term and give him (and his successors) the ability that private companies have to downsize expensive veteran employees any time they want.
But as Education Commissioner/Bloomberg Shill David Steiner told Cathie Black earlier this week, if they just wait a year, the new state rules on teacher evaluations will allow them to lay anybody off in two years so long as they are declared "ineffective."
So whether Bloomberg gets these changes now or whether they come next year when Steiner and Merryl Tisch issue their Gates Foundation-written document on teacher evals, one way or the other state districts will be able to get rid of teachers at will soon enough.