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NY State Senate passes bill to end seniority teacher layoffs

A bill that would end the “last in, first out” layoff policy for New York City teachers passed in the State Senate today, but faces an uphill battle in the Assembly.

Introduced late last week by State Senator John Flanagan, a Long Island Republican, the bill rules out seniority as the sole factor in determining who gets laid off. Instead, the bill offers eight pages of an extraordinarily complicated, prioritized list of which teachers and school supervisors would be first in line to be laid off.

The bill passed the Senate 33-27, with support from Republicans and two Democratic Senators — Jeff Klein and David Valesky.

Following the vote, Governor Andrew Cuomo put out a statement saying he plans to introduce a bill that would “expedite and expand ongoing plans to implement a statewide, objective teacher evaluation system.”

Rather than replacing “last in, first out” with other measures, which Flanagan’s bill does, Cuomo’s bill would put New York’s new teacher evaluation system in place sooner than was previously planned. The original law had it covering math and English teachers who teach grades 4-8 next year and expanding to all teachers and all subjects by 2012-13. Under Cuomo’s bill, the evaluation would cover all teachers beginning next year.

But that can only happen if school districts successfully negotiate with the teachers union. In New York City, the Department of Education and United Federation of Teachers have yet to reach an agreement on what the local assessments, which form a substantial part of the evaluation, will be.

In his release, Cuomo says that the new evaluation system will replace last in, first out, though he doesn’t explain how.

A Department of Education official called Cuomo’s bill a “sham,” and accused the governor of making a deal with the teachers union to not support ending LIFO in exchange for the union not protesting his budget cuts.

“This is not a layoff bill — it’s a way to get around LIFO without changing the law,” the official said.

Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver did not take a position on the bill that passed today, but said today that he does support ending seniority based layoffs. Echoing Cuomo’s language, he said he was looking for an “objective evaluation system,” to replace last in, first out.

Mayor Bloomberg’s statement:

“Today, the New York State Senate passed a landmark proposal that puts the needs of our children first. Putting great teachers in front of every classroom – regardless of how long they have been on the job – is the most important thing a school system can do to help its students. Enormous credit is due to Senate Education Committee Chair John Flanagan, who has established himself as a statewide leader on education reform, to Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, and to the Republican Conference – particularly New York City’s champions, Marty Golden and Andrew Lanza – for taking a stand on behalf of our 1.1 million schoolchildren. I also want to thank Senators Jeff Klein and David Valeskyof the Independent Democratic Conference for putting the needs of public school children ahead of special interest politics. Now, we urge the Governor to include this critically important reform in his budget proposal on Thursday and for the Assembly to support it.”

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