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Bloomberg, teachers draw metaphorical weapons in budget battle

Stephon Johnson | 4/12/2011, 4:44 p.m.

The teachers union knew what to expect when Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled his proposed budget for the 2011-2012 fiscal year--but that doesn't mean it hurt any less.

In one of the largest proposed teacher layoffs since the bad old days of the 1970s fiscal crisis, Bloomberg is prepared to layoff almost 5,000 teachers and to eliminate another 1,000-plus through attrition.

Along with the job cuts, Bloomberg is also proposing to use $1.86 billion in city funds to counter a loss in state aid due to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's budget. Bloomberg has blamed the state for forcing him to cut jobs and services.

"If there's a possibility the State Legislature restores cuts around the state, I want to get our name on the list," said Bloomberg, "Tell that to Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers."

But Mulgrew took issue with Bloomberg's claim that the city's financial woes warrant such drastic action. "Given the city's growing revenues, along with the governor's clear statement that the state budget should not require local layoffs, the mayor's insistence on teacher layoffs becomes more and more bizarre," said Mulgrew. "We've already lost nearly 5,000 teachers to attrition in the last two years, and class sizes are skyrocketing across the city. It's time the mayor joined us in fighting for the children of our city by supporting the extension of the state millionaire's tax, rather than continuing to focus, as he and Chancellor Black did in Albany this week, on a bogus strategy to lay teachers off."

The Citizens' Committee for Children, a coalition of children's advocacy groups, released a joint statement speaking of their disappointment with Bloomberg's actions and calling him a liar.

"Mayor Bloomberg's plans to cut subsidies for 16,624 children in the coming year is a devastating blow to the city's children and working families, the biggest single cut to child care services since the 1970's," the statement read. "It represents a dramatic reversal of the mayor's promise to expand early learning opportunities for the city's children and a retreat from his public statements in support of the city's working families.

"As leaders in early childhood education, we are profoundly disappointed in the mayor's proposal and deeply concerned about the setback it represents in ensuring that every child enters school ready to succeed and all parents who want to work can get to their jobs each day," the statement continued.

According to City Hall, Bloomberg got a welcome surprise in the form of $2 billion in unanticipated tax revenue. But the mayor wants to close the $4.58 billion deficit without raising any taxes, and relying heavily on hundreds of millions of dollars from New York State is part of his fiscal plan for 2011-2012. Bloomberg believes that without that state money there would be more layoffs and cuts to services for New Yorkers.

A high school math teacher, who wished to remain anonymous, told the AmNews that Bloomberg is revealing his true colors to those who educate for a living.

"I think it is shameful how the mayor thinks so little of the teachers and children of New York City," she said. "Governor Cuomo stated we did not need to lay off teachers so why is Bloomberg pursuing this action? My belief is he wants to have more control over who he can fire. After all, one experienced teacher costs the same as two novices, so why should New York City children have good teachers when they can have twice as many who don't know what they are doing?"