PHOTO: Hayleigh ColomboRandi Weingarten The head of the United Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, lashed out today against Mayor Bloomberg's preliminary budget, which warns that New York City could have to lay off about 15,000 educators. No surprise there: Obviously the head of the teachers union would oppose a plan to fire her members, especially when they make up almost 80 percent of the personnel whose jobs are on the line. What's more interesting about the UFT's press release are the hard numbers Weingarten cites in it. During the 1970s, when the city nearly declared bankruptcy, 10,000 teachers were laid off. As their contract stipulated, when economic conditions improved, they were offered jobs in the system. But only 3,000 of them off accepted an offer to return, Weingarten said in a press release. "We are going to lose thousands of excellent teachers that the city Department of Education hired and spent money to train because they are going to look for other jobs," she said Weingarten also explained what 15,000 represents in today's Department of Education: "Anyone with three or fewer years of service would probably lose their jobs if the city goes through with this threat," she said. The UFT's entire press release is below the jump.
If 15,000 educators are fired this year, it will be the state's fault, Mayor Bloomberg said today at a press conference where he unveiled a preliminary version of next year's budget. The city is staring down a $4 billion deficit for the fiscal year that begins on July 1, Bloomberg said, larger than what he anticipated just a few months ago. To close the budget gap, he's proposed a plan that would require city agencies to eliminate nearly 20,000 positions. Most agencies would be able to cut positions simply by not hiring anyone new to replace workers who leave or retire. But the Department of Education would have to fire nearly 14,000 educators whose salaries are paid with state funds. Those jobs could be protected if the state fills in the holes in its budget with federal stimulus money. The stimulus bill has not yet been finalized but it appears sure to include significant bailout funding for strapped school districts. "Here's a chance for Albany to pay for their fair share of education with somebody else's money," Bloomberg said. But he said repeatedly that New Yorkers can't simply assume that the state would direct enough of the stimulus money to the city. "If there's ever a chance for us to put pressure on them, it's now," Bloomberg said.
A selective high school run by an organization called Ghetto Film School and a high school that's remarkable because its building is freestanding, rather than shared with other schools, are set to open this fall, the Department of Education announced today. The DOE launched its annual new schools announcement blitz today with news about six schools, including the two high schools, that will open in September. They are among 22 schools citywide that will move into new or expanded buildings over the summer. The 14,000 new school seats that are being added represent "the full impact" of the current capital plan, according to DOE officials. (The proposal for the next five-year capital plan doesn't call for as much building.) Of particular note is Cinema High School in the Bronx, which will be run in partnership with Ghetto Film School, a program that has for years introduced Bronx teens to film production. The school will admit students selectively; it's among the roster of new selective schools Mayor Bloomberg promised in 2005. In some parts of the city, new schools are scheduled to open to replace others that are being phased out because of poor performance. Those new schools have not yet been announced. At least the high schools that will open in September will be revealed by the end of next week; they will then try to woo applicants at a new schools fair. The DOE's press release and the full list of schools announced today is after the jump.
Even the mighty Teach For America, whose annual budget nearly tripled in the last three years to $110 million, is suffering the effects of recession. The national organization that places recent college graduates in hard-to-fill teaching positions is dramatically scaling back the size of its New York City cohort this fall, according to an e-mail sent today by the region's alumni director to former TFA corps members. About 350 TFA teachers will start teaching in the city in September, down from more than 500 this year. Of the 350 teachers, nearly 30 percent are likely to be placed in charter schools, a higher proportion than in the past, the e-mail said. And the organization says it could reduce the size of New York City cohort even further, depending on how the city's budget shapes up. (If the layoffs that the mayor and chancellor have warned about actually happen, you can be sure that there won't be too many 22-year-olds teaching in the city this fall.) The e-mail also contains a guide to some of the factors that could affect demand for new teachers this fall, no matter their path to the classroom: A reduced NYC DOE budget means there is simply less money with which to hire new teachers at the school level; principal budgets will be cut across the board. Retirement and resignation rates among all city employees, including central NYC DOE staff, school administrators, and teachers, are expected to decline as a result of the poor economy. The NYC DOE recently instituted a meaningful financial incentive for principals to hire teachers from the Active Teacher Reserve as opposed to hiring new teachers through sources such as the NYC Teaching Fellows and Teach For America, or through traditional routes. Central NYC DOE staff may go back to working in schools, occupying both teaching and administrative vacancies, as a result of cuts in central staff positions. The entire letter is after the jump.
Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, leading a press conference. (Photo courtesy of Haimson) She is privately (and sometimes not-so-privately) loathed by allies of the Bloomberg administration, dismissed as a rabble-rouser whose loud protests represent just a tiny segment of parents. Yet Leonie Haimson, the executive director of Class Size Matters, who targets the administration on the issue of class size and on other subjects, has powerful allies. Take just one case: At the State of the State address this year in Albany, Haimson sat in a seat many rows ahead of Schools Chancellor Joel Klein. Did she steal the chair from an unsuspecting innocent? No, it was the gift of Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, the chair of the education committee, who selected Haimson as her single guest. "I just love her," Nolan said. "I feel she’s a real honest advocate and a fellow parent."