Mayor Bloomberg set the stage for his first big confrontation with Governor Cuomo yesterday by demanding that the upcoming state budget do away with the “last-in, first-out” rule that values teachers’ seniority regardless of merit. At the Christian Cultural Center in Flatlands, Brooklyn — a politically influential black church — Bloomberg declared, “enough with Albany rules.” The mayor was referring to the possibility that the city could lose $1 billion in education aid from the state, which could force massive cuts of up to 21,000. If the state’s seniority law stays in place, city officials estimate every teacher hired since 2006 would face layoffs. Firing the newest teachers first disproportionately hits poorer neighborhoods because schools in those areas tend to have the least experienced educators. “You just cannot do this. If the governor’s budget contains education cuts, it must also contain changes to the law so that we can take merit into account when making these difficult decisions,” Bloomberg added Sunday. Although Cuomo’s reps initially said the governor’s proposal, released tomorrow, wouldn’t address the rule because it wasn’t a budgetary matter, the Post says lawmakers are secretly eyeing a compromise.
The plan being discussed wouldn’t address the problem with seniority over merit, which the teachers’ union has vehemently opposed, but it would allow the mayor to exempt “nonteaching teachers” from last-in, first-out. That subset of teachers covers 2,000 to 4,000 teachers who aren’t currently in a classroom, including disciplined educators formerly relegated to full pay in the city’s notorious rubber rooms, as well as members of the “absent teacher reserve pool,” which often means teachers on the payroll whose schools have closed owing to poor performance. In other words, the subset of educators that any well-functioning school system would place at the top of its dispensable list. Looks like Albany rules, just with a little face-lift.