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Bloomberg Threatens Education Cuts if State Money is Lost

By Jill Colvin | January 29, 2013 9:07am
 Mayor Michael Bloomberg will present his preliminary Fiscal Year 2014 budget on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg will present his preliminary Fiscal Year 2014 budget on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013.
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Mayor's Office/Edward Reed

NEW YORK CITY — Mayor Michael Bloomberg has threatened to cut 2,500 teachers through attrition over the next 18 months unless Albany lawmakers restore hundreds of millions of dollars in education aid.

Testifying in front of Albany legislators Monday at a hearing on Gov. Andrew Cuomo's budget plan, Bloomberg warned of "potentially calamitous" consequences if the state follows through with its plan to strip the city of more than $700 million dollars in education aid. 

The city failed to reach a teacher evaluation deal with the teachers' union by Jan. 17, and Cuomo has made annual increases in state aid contingent on districts reaching and implementing these plans.

“Starting with my budget update tomorrow morning, they will have a net loss of nearly 700 teachers through attrition for the rest of this school year," Bloomberg said in his prepared testimony, delivered the day before Tuesday's unveiling of what will be his final city budget.

Without the state cash, Bloomberg warned that principals will only be able to hire one replacement for every four teachers they lose for the balance of the school year. The city will "sharply reduce" its use of substitutes and teachers' aides, he said, and make "substantial cutbacks" to other programs, including after-school homework help and professional development for staff.

“The state funds we’ve lost will force principals to start right now making just such substantial classroom cutbacks — because they won’t have the discretionary funds they currently rely on," he said.

Beginning next September "the pain will be even greater," said Bloomberg, who threatened the loss of more than 1,800 additional teachers through attrition — unless the state reverses course on its decision to link school aid to the evaluation system.

The cuts would also result in the loss of more than 700,000 hours of after-school programs, and $67 million for "essential school supplies," Hizzoner said.

Schools have until Sept. 1, 2013 to fully implement their evaluation systems or lose out on the next round of aid.

In his testimony, Bloomberg, who has blamed the union for blocking the deal, slammed the State Education Department for the arrangement.

“The function of the State Education Department is to help schoolchildren — not to unjustly penalize them," he said, begging lawmakers to avert the cuts, which he warned "will have potentially calamitous effects on our city’s public schools."

“The Legislature simply must act to keep New York City schoolchildren from being unfairly harmed by the UFT’s refusal to agree to a fair and effective evaluation process."

The teachers union, which blames Bloomberg for squashing the deal, called the testimony  "embarrassing."

"He goes up to Albany and talks about things that he is just factually wrong about," Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, said in a statement.

The most recent version of the city's budget, released in November, projected a $1.15 billion budget deficit for Fiscal Year 2014, which starts July 1.

But that deficit number was dependent on the $700 million in state education funds and at least one other source of revenue that has yet to materialize: the $790 million the city hopes to bank when it auctions off 2,000 new yellow-cab medallions, a plan that is currently held up by the courts.

The city's Independent Budget Office recently concluded that these unknowns, as well as expired contracts with the city's municipal  unions, put the city on slippery financial footing.

"The questionable assumption of the taxi revenue, state education aid, and Medicaid reimbursements, along with other critical concerns renders the city’s budget outlook less assured than it seems from the financial plan," IBO analysts wrote.

"The fiscal difficulties that lay ahead for the next Mayor and City Council may be more prosaic than a historic recession or mammoth storms, but the potential challenges remain no less real."