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Battling state cuts, Jackson says he believes city’s layoff figures

A frequent critic of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and friend to the teachers union is backing the mayor’s much-debated layoff estimates.

City Council Education Committee Chairman Robert Jackson said today that he believes Bloomberg’s estimates are probably an accurate reflection of the impact of the governor’s current proposed cuts.

Some critics of Bloomberg have accused the mayor of exaggerating the city’s financial straits in order to press the legislature to end the state’s seniority-based teacher layoff system. Governor Andrew Cuomo has said repeatedly that his proposed cuts to education spending should not necessitate layoffs in local districts.

“I believe Mayor Bloomberg and not Governor Cuomo,” Jackson said, saying that he has heard from local elected officials in other New York cities who have said that their communities are also facing teacher layoffs in spite of Cuomo’s insistence that none are necessary.

“The mayor has a better handle on New York City’s budget,” he said.  “The local executives and the local representatives have a better handle on their municipalities.”

That’s not to say that he won’t have any objections to the mayor’s budget, Jackson cautioned, saying that he wanted to focus on preventing cuts to the state budget first. “And then I’ll turn my energies to Mayor Bloomberg,” he said.

Jackson’s comments came after a press conference in which he gathered with public school parents to urge both the governor and the mayor not to slash state education spending. Parents argued that the governor should seek out other revenues to avoid education cuts. And they said the mayor should be fighting the cuts harder, rather than focusing his energies on changing the current layoff system.

“What’s particularly outrageous to me is that the mayor has spun the teacher layoffs into a debate on how the layoffs should be conducted,” said parent Larry Wood. “That’s not the issue. The issue should be why are we laying off thousands of teachers at all. We should be focused on stopping the cuts, not on a better process to implement them.”

Carlton Curry — shown speaking in the video above — said that his daughter’s school, P.S. 126 in the Bronx, has already lost several teachers and parts of its after-school program and cannot afford to lose more money.

“Why would they want to fix the budget off the backs of children?” said Curry, who also serves on District 9’s President’s Council, a group of parent association leaders.

Like many opponents of the governor’s proposed cuts, both Jackson and Curry argued that instead of reducing education spending, the state should renew the so-called “millionaire’s tax,” a surcharge on those with annual incomes greater than $200,000 that can produce up to $5 billion in revenues. “This is a time they need to step up and say, ‘Hey, yo, I’m a millionaire, I can afford this,'” Curry said.