Today’s news:

Mayor’s ‘scary’ teacher talk - Suggesting 15,000 could be canned earns Bloomy jeers

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s announcement that 15,000 teachers will be out of a job is “just a scare tactic,” according to a state Assemblymember representing Brooklyn.

“I’m not saying that layoffs are not going to happen but right now it’s a scare tactic and I’m opposed to it,” Assemblymember Alan Maisel told this paper.

Bloomberg warned of the potential loss in jobs, which would be done through layoffs and attrition, in hope that outraged New Yorkers would demand that the state legislature allocate additional funding.

The city Department of Education (DOE) is facing a $1.4 billion deficit for the next fiscal year. That includes a $770 million cut from Governor David Paterson, a $500 million cut from Bloomberg, and a $200 million increase in non-discretionary costs, such as teachers’ pensions and DOE debts.

According to published reports, Senator Charles Schumer said New York City public schools would receive $1.8 billion if the federal stimulus package is passed as written.

Maisel said Bloomberg could avoid layoffs if he trimmed the DOE’s budget.

“If the mayor would cut some of his initiatives, like the $90 million report card that he has the Board of Education prepare, that would go a long way to preventing some of the layoffs. And the consultants — they spend tens of millions of dollars on consultants, most of which are unnecessary,” Maisel said.

City Councilmember Vincent Gentile said Bloomberg should alter his spending habits during this economic crisis.

“The mayor’s fist is clenched around a $2.6 billion rainy day fund for retiree health benefits that he refuses to let go of even when the city is flooded with financial problems,” Gentile said. “If he used this money over the next two years for retiree health benefits, that would free up millions for crucial services like teachers for our kids. The mayor is overlooking the obvious, holding onto this money for a rainy day when it’s storming out right now.”

The idea of losing 15,000 teachers is “horrendous,” according to parents.

“It would be horrendous. The class size in some schools is already so large,” said Laurie Windsor, president of the Community Education Council (CEC) in District 20, which has suffered from severe overcrowding. “What are they going to cut first — general education teachers versus art teachers versus music teachers?”

Fewer teachers and less funding could lead to the elimination of some art and music courses, warned Rodrick Ruddie Daley, a foreign language teacher at I.S. 285, 5909 Beverley Road.

“Drama, music and art – those things will be gone as well. Programs will be cut,” he said.

Such a loss would be devastating, said Christopher Spinelli, president of District 22’s CEC.

“It’s always something that is put up on the chopping block first and that’s a shame,” he said.

The UFT will hold a rally on March 5th at 4 p.m. outside of City Hall to denounce the proposed funding cuts and call for additional state and federal aid. For updated information, visit www.uft.org.

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