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What to expect when you’re expecting layoffs (again…)

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said today that teacher layoffs are still on the table in New York City, after Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget deal lessened the cuts to education only slightly.

Public school teachers could probably be forgiven for rolling their eyes. For the past two years, city officials have responded to cuts in education funding with threats of teacher layoffs and for two years, the layoffs haven’t materialized.

Well aware of the city’s history of layoff threats, Bloomberg and Chancellor Cathie Black have described the budget crisis as more serious than in the past and the threats more real. They’ve lobbied Albany to change the current seniority-based layoff process and they’ve released a list of how many teachers each city school could lose.

So with that in mind, it makes sense to look back to last year, when we published a guide to how layoffs work when and if they ever happen. Some of the information is outdated — we no longer have a Governor David Paterson and the city has confirmed that a majority of the laid-off teachers would come from elementary schools — but most of it is still relevant. For example:

When will I know if I’m being laid off? Department of Education officials hope to give principals their budgets for next year by June 1, so you could find out shortly afterward that your position has been eliminated at your school. But that doesn’t mean you’ve been laid off. If any of the moving parts change — if Albany alters the budget cut or if the federal government passes the education bailout bill — the news may come quite a bit later. If I’m a teacher and I am laid off, do I get severance pay? No. You will be paid through the summer and for the vacation days and sick days you didn’t use. How long will my health insurance last? Your city health insurance will expire 90 days from the day you are laid off. At that point, you can extend your health benefits with COBRA, which allows you to keep your insurance temporarily but requires you to pay the entire premium. It’s cheaper than getting individual health insurance. In the words of one school official: Go see your doctor; go to the dentist; go to the gynecologist, do it all.