In some circles, the number 777 is a sign of good fortune and prosperity. Not so much for 777 employees of the New York City Department of Education.
The nation’s biggest education system is about to feel the effect of the cuts of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration as he seeks to implement this major layoff in one fell swoop. The 777 workers, who include school aides and parent coordinators, will lose their jobs by October in the largest layoff at a single agency since Bloomberg took office in 2002.
As the DOE struggles to work with already massive slashes to its budget, the news is that 2,186 teachers are about to lose their full-time, fixed assignments. Talks between the city and DC 37, which represents a majority of the workers subject to the layoffs, resulted in a deal in June that prevented teacher layoffs but left room for Bloomberg to take the draconian measure announced Tuesday.
Speaking for Bloomberg, Marc LaVorgna told the AmNews, “Since the beginning of the budget process, the mayor has been committed to working with organized labor to produce savings to try to avoid layoffs, and we’ve had success when labor joined us. We worked with the UFT to produce savings that successfully helped avoid teacher layoffs and with DC 37 on an agreement to avoid Parks Department layoffs. Unfortunately, in this case, the unions involved would not agree to any real savings that could have saved these jobs.”
DC 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts expressed deep concern about the layoffs. “While we have received no official notification of layoffs, we are deeply concerned, because the support staff in the Department of Education plays an important role in our children’s education,” said Roberts. “Over the last two years, that staff has already been cut significantly throughout the system. We’re concerned that any further cuts will disproportionately affect schools in high-need areas that are already in a barebones situation.”
In last week’s Amsterdam News, Gov. Andrew Cuomo waxed lyrical about how the budget he negotiated with legislators in Albany wasn’t that austere.
“The main fear of the cut in New York City was that the cut was basically in the area of education. The initial position from the company was that they wouldn’t be able to do that and they would [have to] lay off teachers, and that created a lot of anxiety,” he said.
“So Act One of the play was the state said they had to close the $10 billion budget deficit and they were going to reduce several funds one of which was aid to education.
“Next scene: New York City says they are going to be forced to lay off teachers,” Cuomo continued.
“Scene three: State says, ‘We don’t believe that you have to lay off teachers. We believe the city has money in their reserves to compensate and not lay off a single teacher.’ And the state said, ‘We are going increase aid to education next year, so it’s only this year.’ As it turns out, New York City doesn’t lay off a single teacher because the city did have reserves to compensate for the state cuts.”
On Tuesday, it was announced that indeed there would be layoffs in the Department of Education, however.
Roberts reiterated, “We are hopeful that both sides [the city and the union] will look for resources to avoid the need for any layoffs.”