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Mayor: schools not guaranteed a priority if city wins more funds

Mayor Bloomberg said today that if he’s able to convince Albany to reduce the city’s deficit, he won’t promise to use the money to avoid teacher layoffs.

During his presentation of the city’s budget for 2012 this morning, the mayor blamed deep cuts from the state and federal governments for his decision to layoff 4,100 teachers. Saying that it was unlikely that lawmakers in Albany would increase aid to the city at this point, he called on them to trim public employees’ pensions and cut programs it mandates the city offer, but doesn’t help the city pay for.

But if he succeeds in extracting cuts and more funding from Albany, that money isn’t necessarily going to save teachers’ jobs.

“Any moneys that Albany manages to get back to us…don’t automatically go to education,” Bloomberg said today.

“There are a lot of first priorities. There are a lot of agencies that are very important to the city. You may decide that you need one more policeman or one more fireman… there are plenty of things in addition to education,” he said.

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew criticized the mayor for shifting blame for layoffs to forces outside of the city.

“Same smoke, same mirrors, same attempt to blame others for his decision to lay off thousands of teachers,” he said in a statement.

The mayor’s speech also contained little discussion of the “last in, first out” layoff policy that has sparked ad wars between dueling education groups and been a focus of Bloomberg’s political agenda in Albany. In past speeches, the mayor has devoted pages to inveighing against the law, which requires the city to lay off public school teachers based on their seniority. But in his budget address today, “last in, first out” layoffs, known as LIFO, barely earned a mention.

“If Albany would change LIFO, that would mitigate the impact on the education system. That’s really what should be their number one priority,” the mayor said.

In answering questions after the meeting, Bloomberg re-iterated his argument that layoffs done through LIFO would result in the loss of primarily younger teachers who he said are more likely to work in struggling schools.

A spokesman for the mayor, Marc LaVorgna, said ending the “last in, first out” layoff system was still one of Bloomberg’s priorities.

“It remains a major priority,” LaVorgna said. “We don’t think it’s any way to run a school system.”

Despite the mayor’s earlier efforts to end LIFO, and the lobbying efforts of groups like Education Reform Now and Educators4Excellence, lawmakers in Albany have shown little interest in taking up the matter. In March, Governor Andrew Cuomo infuriated city officials when he proposed that the city postpone teacher layoffs until next year, when a new teacher evaluation system might be in place.

Education Reform Now President Joe Williams reiterated the group’s view today that laying off teachers based on seniority would rid the city of some of its best teachers.

“For months, New Yorkers have called for Albany to take action on ‘Last In, First Out,’ and now time has run out,” he said.

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