Even as tensions between the Bloomberg administration and the United Federation of Teachers remain high, the two sides are quietly talking about proposals that could sharply reduce the number of teacher layoffs the mayor has proposed, sources close to the budget process say.
While no accord seems imminent, the low-key discussions hold the potential to protect many of the 4,000 teacher layoffs Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said are necessary – while also giving him a face-saving way to avoid the spectacle of mass firings.
“We will continue to work with our colleagues in Albany to make the necessary changes in state law that will allow us to manage any layoffs in a more responsible, intelligent and equitable manner,” Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott told a City Council hearing yesterday.
The Bloomberg administration’s earlier hope to change the state’s “last in, first out” policy on teacher layoffs has been dashed in Albany, but Walcott was in the Capitol last week pushing for other changes to make it easier to fire egregiously bad teachers, like those convicted of felonies.
“Who’s going to be against that?” asked a high-level source involved in budget talks. “The UFT is talking to the mayor’s office and trying to figure out a compromise to make this work.”
Sources on both sides downplayed the results of such talks, saying discipline changes in the future won’t save jobs this year. But they said Bloomberg’s team is trying to reduce the potential for layoffs, since firing teachers would be deeply unpopular – especially for a mayor whose reputation on education issues has been falling.
The mayor is deeply unpopular, his education policies are deeply unpopular, his layoff proposal is deeply unpopular - the UFT does NOT need to concede anything here.
The savings that the mayor claims he needs can come from outside consultant contracts and the tech budget.
Bloomberg plans to spend $550 million on technology upgrades next year, an outrageous amount considering he's claiming he needs to lay off thousands of teachers to save $300 million. He wants to do this so he can spend millions more on standardized tests and add dozens of new tests to every grade - not to improve education, just so teachers can be tracked.
It is egregious that the mayor wants to replace teachers with computers so that he can add dozens of standardized tests in order to track teachers.
Hammer that point home again and again.
Geez, it's not hard here.
People are sick of Bloomberg, they don't like him or his policies in general, and they REALLY hate his education policies.
78% of NYC public school parents oppose his education policies.
The UFT doesn't have to concede anything here.
The mayor is the one who has to concede.
As Public Advocate de Balsio, Manhattan Borough President Stringer and Comptroller Liu have all pointed out, Bloomberg has made a political decision to lay teachers off.
This has nothing to do with the budget in any real way.
The money exists to keep teachers on the job.
Bloomberg has just decided to spend it on computers, standardized tests and outside tech consultants instead of teachers.