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City could have 8,500 fewer teachers next year, Bloomberg says

Claiming that Governor Paterson’s budget plan would put an undue burden on New York City, Mayor Bloomberg said the state’s proposed cut to city schools would mean 8,500 fewer teachers next year.

The cut to schools — Bloomberg put it at $500 million while the state says it’s $418 million — likely means that principals will have a hard time finding funds to replace teachers who leave the system or retire and may have to lay off others. Those who do find replacements will likely have to woo teachers from other schools who are already on the city’s payroll, leading to a complicated reshuffling.

Bloomberg is also unhappy with Paterson’s decision to shift $51 million, the cost of summer special education classes, from the state’s budget to the city’s.

“But let’s be clear — our schools are under Federal mandate to provide these services, no ifs, ands, or buts. So this is not a cut in spending; it’s a cost shift, pure and simple. And it ought to be understood as an unfunded mandate,” he said in his testimony.

Just about the only item in the governor’s budget plan that pleased the mayor was a provision that would reduce the city’s borrowing costs for school construction.

Bloomberg also laid out his administration’s legislative goals for the city schools:

“The prospect of layoffs in our schools also adds urgency to our proposed reform of the ‘last in, first out’ teacher layoff policy. Clearly the only thing worse than having to lay off teachers would be laying off great teachers instead of failing ones.

“So we need you to empower us to objectively and transparently evaluate teachers, and then make personnel decisions based on what that tells us about what matters most: success in the classroom. We also need reform of the absurdly difficult, expensive, and lengthy process of firing incompetent teachers.

“And let’s also lift the State’s cap on charter schools. The success of charter schools is indisputable; charter school students continue to consistently outpace their age-mates on the State’s standardized math and reading proficiency tests.

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