Randi Weingarten, the president of the teachers union, and Betsy Gotbaum, the public advocate, are usually hard on Mayor Bloomberg when it comes to education budget cuts. But because the majority of school cuts announced today will come from the Department of Education’s central bureaucracy, not individual schools, they have both issued cautiously optimistic responses to today’s budget announcement.
Weingarten’s and Gotbaum’s full responses after the jump.
UPDATE: Maybe this will turn out to be a budget fight. The principals’ union president, Ernest Logan, just came out with a statement, and it’s more confrontational than Weingarten’s. Weingarten said she is looking forward to working with the mayor; Logan says firmly that he opposes a mid-year cut. “Forcing another mid-year cut will hinder the progress we have made thus far,” he said. And he adds: “Let’s be clear – CSA is committed to standing up for the children of this city and will continue to fight for what’s right.”
Here’s Weingarten’s full response:
Given the state of the economy, we fully expected today’s bad news, and we waited to respond until we had a better sense of the whole citywide picture, not just how education will be impacted. We are encouraged that cuts are being made to the central bureaucracy, which is a better alternative than cutting programs and services that kids depend on. We believe more can be done in this regard, particularly by looking at ways to create 360 degree accountability while also streamlining some of the existing components. We also must always be looking for new revenue sources, such as the property tax proposal, which we support. Cuts don’t come without a price. The reduction of safety operations and custodial services has an adverse affect on schools. Reductions in pre-k services and summer school affect kids’ readiness to learn. Any cuts being considered in schools should be viewed through that lens. The Mayor has said this round of cuts will not impact on classrooms, and we’re going to have to be the eyes and ears on the school-level to make sure that holds true. I firmly believe that layoffs should always be a last resort, because they impact on important services and have a devastating effect on families that lose their earnings. There are always other alternatives, such as redeployments, freezes on new hires and early retirement incentives. Teachers and other personnel in the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) pool should also be better utilized. There is clearly a lot to be concerned about as we move forward, and the severity of the city’s and state’s economic situations cannot be ignored. The tough choices are only going to get tougher, and that is why it’s important for all stakeholders to stand together. We are committed to working with the Mayor and the City Council as they confront the challenges ahead.
I am concerned about how the proposed cuts will affect education. The mayor assured me that the budget cuts to education will not directly impact the classroom, and instead will be made mostly to the Department of Education’s central administration. As I have long stated, DOE central can afford to trim some fat. For instance, there are still nine open positions listed on the DOE website under their accountability initiative, some paying up to $170,000.
At this critical time, it is essential that the best interests of the children be kept in mind before any budgetary decisions are made. We all know that education is the key to prosperity and the quality of education we provide to our students cannot be sacrificed during tough economic times. Our children won’t get a second chance. We have been, and will continue to meet with the DoE to ensure school leaders are afforded flexibility in dealing with their budgets and to ensure schools have enough time to plan, prepare and strategize on the best way to continue to improve student achievement, despite budgets woes. Forcing another mid-year cut will hinder the progress we have made thus far. With a growing financial crisis, now is not the time to roll out new initiatives, spend with reckless disregard, or continue with practices that have no proven record of success. We must re-evaluate and streamline our resources to focus on initiatives that truly increase student achievement. Let’s be clear – CSA is committed to standing up for the children of this city and will continue to fight for what’s right.