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Mayor Bloomberg Defends Call to Cut Teachers by Half

By Jill Colvin | December 3, 2011 5:25pm
Mayor Michael Bloomberg high-fived a student at the new Spruce Street School Sept. 8, 2011.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg high-fived a student at the new Spruce Street School Sept. 8, 2011.
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Mayor's Office

MANHATTAN — Mayor Michael Bloomberg went on the defensive Friday over comments he made this week in Massachusetts advocating cutting the number of teachers in half and doubling pay for those who remained.

As DNAinfo first reported, the mayor told an audience at MIT Wednesday that, in a perfect world, he "would cut the number of teachers in half" and double their compensation, in an effort to improve the quality of instruction.

“Double the class size with a better teacher is a good deal for the students,” he said.

The mayor also raised eyebrows when he told the audience that teachers were culled "the bottom 20 percent and not of the best schools."

Despite stirring a firestorm of criticism, Bloomberg stood by his remarks Friday, following an announcement at Facebook's Midtown offices.

"Nothing I've said in Boston I haven't said for the last ten years," he said.

"If you were going to start from scratch, you want to go and get the best teachers, and you have to pay the more to get them. Which means you're going to have fewer teachers."

When he was a kid, he said, there were classes "with five rows of eight" and "education, by some people's argument, was as good then as it is today."

A number of city leaders have slammed Bloomberg's comments to MIT as out of touch and insensitive.

“Advocating that we slash teachers and increase class size sends a signal to NYC students and their families, and people around the world, that City Hall is throwing in the towel on our kids," Manhattan Borough Scott Stringer said in a statement.

"It shows an astonishing lack of understanding of what our public school students — and our schools — need to succeed.”

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio called on the mayor to issue an apology for his "ill-conceived" remarks.

“Those of us with kids in the city's school system find the thought of 50 students packed into our children's classrooms appalling," he said in a statement.

“I can only imagine the chilling effect of hearing your boss say, ‘I want to fire half of you.’ For Mayor Bloomberg to go even further and disparage the quality of the teachers in our system adds insult to injury," he said.

But the mayor said that there are roughly 23 students per class in the city at the moment and added that teachers' salaries have more than doubled over the last 10 years.

"If that doesn't show how much we care about teachers, we're not sure what does," he said.