Avoiding Teacher Layoffs
March 26th, 2009

In January Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that, in the face of the crumbling economy, declining revenues and state cuts to education, the city would have to lay off about 14,000 teachers. Then came the federal stimulus package, state budget negotiations and howls of protest.

So how many teachers does the city stand to lose now? No one knows but it wont be anything like 15,000. In fact, it might be none at all.

The City Council education committee is holding hearings today on the education department’s budget — some $17.3 billion in the mayor’s preliminary budget. That figure, committee chairman Robert Jackson said, “would not adequately fund schools.”

Almost everyone agrees the number will increase by hundreds of millions but that’s about as precise as it gets now. “The total value of the federal rescue package for the Department of Education remains uncertain and is, to a large extent, in the hands of the state government,” Jackson said, leaving the department with what he called “an uncertain and murky revenue outlook.”

Here are the numbers, as presented by Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, at the hearing.

Under the stimulus plan, the schools expect to get an extra $400 million in money under the federal Title 1 program for schools serving low-income students and the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In addition, the city schools will get some federal stimulus money being funneled through the state — an amount that could range from about $360 million to more than $500 million for each of the next two years.

With the lower amount, Klein said, the department would lay off about 25 percent of its non-teaching school staff and perhaps a couple of thousand teachers, although the exact amount would depend on how many teachers resign or retire before the start of next school year. With the higher number, the schools would still have a shortfall of $500 million, resulting in the loss of about 2,500 non-teaching jobs, but few, if any, teachers would be laid off, according to the chancellor. The cuts would force schools to eliminate some programs.

Given the uncertainty, there were few of the usual council attacks on Klein’s spending priorities.

He told the hearing he had already slashed administrative expenses, leaving little else to cut there. Councilmember Oliver Koppell questioned whether the department should still be launching new, small schools in such tight times.

Klein disagreed. Not opening new schools to save about $70 million “would be a huge mistake. …To leave students in a schools that is really not performing is not tolerable,” he said.

And Councilmember Bill de Blasio raised questions about the administration’s spending on student assessments and its public relations efforts. Klein defended the assessments — saying they had been praised by the Obama administration — but did not address the spending on media relations, which may indicate his public relations advisers have served him well.

By on March 26, 2009, 1:10 pm
In category: Albany,Education,Gotham City,Public Finance | 1 Comment »

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One Response to “Avoiding Teacher Layoffs”

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