Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s threats of teacher layoffs have had a ring of déjà vu. He used the same threat last year to squeeze more money from the federal government and to press his case for abolishing the state law that protects the most senior teachers from losing their jobs.
The strategy yielded a partial victory — $800 million in stimulus money, which, when combined with a pay freeze, took layoffs off the table, but did nothing to alter the seniority law.
The law still stands, and when the mayor again raised the prospect of layoffs, skeptical observers wondered if he was running the same play all over again. But those layoffs came a big step closer to becoming reality on Friday, when the mayor put them in his executive budget, saying they were needed to balance the city’s finances.
In proposing to lay off 4,100 teachers, Mr. Bloomberg turned a political third rail into fair game. He is taking on the teachers’ union amid an incendiary national debate over the impact of public employees’ benefits and protections on state and local governments.
Unlike Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, who has called leaders of his state’s teachers’ union “political thugs,” or Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, now nationally famous for cutting bargaining rights for most government workers, Mr. Bloomberg has, for now, aimed his public criticism elsewhere. He blamed the state during his budget presentation on Friday, saying it paid 45 percent of the city’s education costs in 2008, but in the next fiscal year, it will pay only 39 percent.
Still, the union and the mayor are at odds like never before. The mayor was able to avoid giving teachers a pay raise last year, because their contract expired in October 2009. There is still no contract. And now they are facing pink slips for the first time since the 1970s.
.nytimes.com/ From: Looming Layoffs at Schools Imperil Bloomberg’s Legacy