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Bing downplays expectations for teacher seniority bill

Opposition to legislation that would eliminate the city’s seniority-based rules that govern teacher layoffs is so fierce that even the bill’s main sponsor tried to play down the bill’s impact.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday with State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr., Assemblyman Jonathan Bing said he’d be satisfied if the proposal doesn’t pass, but merely brings publicity to the damage that teacher layoffs would wreak on the city.

It’s an election year, so it’s a difficult year for people to show political courage, Bing said. If this leads to a reduction in the cuts because it draws attention to this issue, then it’s already been successful.

Teachers union president Michael Mulgrew has said repeatedly that legislators should focus on mitigating proposed budget cuts to education, rather than planning how layoffs should be executed. Bing said his bill does both.

Bing’s bill would give principals the power to determine which teachers to lay off, after hearing the recommendations of a committee of parents and teachers. It also would give the chancellor the power to determine which teachers currently in the absent teacher reserve pool would be let go and would put a one-year restriction on how long an excessed teacher can stay in the reserve pool without finding a new position.

Those are all proposals championed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and bitterly opposed by the city’s teachers union. Last week, one of the bill’s original sponsors in the State Senate, George Oronato, pulled his name off the bill, saying that the legislation would interfere with the existing teachers contract.

At the press conference, Bing acknowledged that he’s drawn ire even from some of his supporters. He and Diaz also flubbed a description of the law their proposed legislation would alter, claiming incorrectly that current rules would lay off teachers without regard to the subject areas they teach.