School aides and parent coordinators are often the link between a community and teachers who are not residents of the city or community they teach in. If Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Department of Education (DOE) have their way, that vital link may be broken in many schools and communities.

Last week, the AmNews reported that the Bloomberg administration and DOE planned to lay off almost 800 workers, including many school aides and parent coordinators. It would be the largest layoff at a single agency since Bloomberg became mayor.

Bloomberg spokesperson Marc LaVorgna told the AmNews last week, “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.”

However, one union leader thinks the latest claims by the administration are hogwash. DC 37 executive director Lillian Roberts spoke with the AmNews and said that the city was playing a two-faced game with the largest public union in the city…and with the livelihoods of the city’s working class.

“I don’t really know why we were targeted,” said Roberts. “The majority of the population’s [average] income is somewhere between $30,000, $35,000 or $40,000 a year. The bulk of the workers [being laid off] make $20,000 a year. They’re part-timers. They work with the families and schools because they’re the link between the schools and where we come from. They’re the link.

“They find out about the problems in the community,” Roberts continued. “[Whether] there’s pressure placed on students by gangs, and etc. We are compounding the problems with these layoffs. I took the city for granted that they were sincere [in the negotiations]. [They’re] going against everything the mayor claims he wants to do for Blacks and Hispanics.

“I think there’s a war on public schools and a war on poor people,” Roberts added.

Earlier this summer, the city and the DOE sent 2,186 teachers to the Absent Teacher Reserve pool as part of their plan to cut costs. Over 1,000 teachers have already left the pool, either finding new positions in the system or leaving the system altogether.

During a rally against City Hall’s cuts on Tuesday, New York City Councilman Charles Barron accused the Bloomberg administration of cutting off the poor in order to feed the rich, hurting the education of Black and Brown youth in the process.

“It is not your business to help your cronies get rich.” Barron said. “Education is a human service that seeks to develop the human potential of our children.”

Roberts told the AmNews that she’ll unveil a plan in September that will allow the city to keep the school service workers and save money. She hopes Bloomberg and company look at her recommendations instead of ignoring them.

“We are destroying the community,” said Roberts. “This is no time to gloat over how many jobs you plan to cut.”