NYC budget deal averts 4,000 teacher layoffs

/ Source: The Associated Press

New York City lawmakers reached a budget deal Friday that will avert the layoffs of about 4,000 teachers partly through union concessions, but the city won't pay to replace thousands more public school instructors who quit or retire this year, officials said.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn gathered with city lawmakers and the head of the teachers' union Friday evening to announce the roughly $66 billion deal, which ducks the worst of the cutbacks the mayor had said would be unavoidable due to economic hard times and declining state and federal budgets.

Still, city classrooms will hold 2,600 fewer teachers next year, because a larger-than-expected number of instructors are choosing to quit or retire.

Combined with the attrition of the last two years, the drop in teacher rolls represents a loss of one-out-of-12 instructors.

That will leave roughly 72,400 teachers for more than 1 million public school students — down from 79,000 teachers in the 2008-2009 school year.

A proposal to shutter 20 fire companies was averted, as were some of the planned reductions to city libraries.

Raucous protests
City Council Finance Chair Domenic Recchia Jr. said he believed the libraries would be able to stay open five days a week and none would be forced to close.

"This is a budget that will keep our city strong, but it is also a budget that faces fiscal realities," Bloomberg said at the late-night press event, which was interrupted several times by raucous protests from city residents upset by the proposed cutbacks.

The group gathered outside the Department of Education building as officials spoke inside.

Friday night's deal represented the final revision of the mayor's $65.72 billion proposal that he issued in May.

The handshake agreement must be followed by a formal vote before the end of the month, when fiscal year 2011 ends.

The administration had been negotiating with an umbrella group of city unions in the hopes of drawing on a union health care fund to save additional jobs, but those talks fell apart Thursday.

The mayor said he anticipated more than 1,000 non-uniformed city workers would receive pink slips, but officials said they couldn't yet say which departments would be effected.

Last teacher layoffs in 1970s
Teacher layoffs, frequently threatened in budget negotiations, have not actually been approved in the city budget process since the 1970s.

This year, Bloomberg had unsuccessfully lobbied state lawmakers to overturn teacher seniority protections, which would have allowed officials to pick and choose which teachers received pink slips.

On Friday, Bloomberg said that it was partly because of the failure of that effort that the city decided to find extra money to avert the teacher layoffs.

About one-third the cost of saving the jobs came from UFT concessions. The union agreed to cancel teacher study sabbaticals for one year and to place unassigned instructors in substitute teaching positions.

Additional funds were found through administrative cutbacks at the Department of Education.

Officials had said the layoffs would have increased class sizes by two or three children, and elementary schools in poor neighborhoods would have been the hardest hit.