Walcott Visits the Council
April 8th, 2011
Most council members lauded him. All of them offered congratulations.
“You are much more knowledgeable than Cathie Black,” said Councilmember Letitia James. “You are much more accessible.”
And that praise came despite the fact Walcott was the bearer of bad news. Toeing the administration’s line, Walcott slammed state budget cuts to the five boroughs, claiming the city was treated unfairly. While the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit was supposed to give the city its fair share of education aid, Walcott said city revenue would cover 61 percent of non-federal education spending in next year’s budget. The state would only cover 39 percent.
Walcott claimed the vast majority of controllable costs at the Department of Education go to teachers’ salaries. The only way to close a $1 billion budget gap, he said, would be to lay off teachers.
“That means, with a budget shortfall of this magnitude, a reduction in headcount is unavoidable,” Walcott said.
There was some dispute between Walcott and Education Committee Chair Robert Jackson on the administration’s proposal to repeal the city’s last in, first out policy — which requires the city lay off teachers based on seniority. The policy’s repeal is a major goal of the Bloomberg adminsitration this year.
Walcott said the city has incentives for principals to keep teachers based on skill instead of how much their salary is. Jackson, however, said the repeal of LIFO could spur discrimination — with principals getting rid of the more senior, expensive instructors in favor of cheaper, younger ones.
Ultimately, Jackson said, the issue is moot.
“You and I know the issue of LIFO is a dead issue,” said Jackson, referring to the State Assembly’s opposition. “You can beat a dead horse to the ground.”
Council members also took issue with the administration’s claim it would take $700 million to prevent teacher layoffs. In its preliminary budget, the administration put the price tag at $269 million.By Courtney Gross on April 8, 2011, 3:32 pm
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