From the Queens Chronicle: By Benjamin Graham
Teachers and parents in Jackson Heights voiced their concerns over teacher layoffs at a town hall meeting hosted by Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) and United Federation of Teachers Queens District 30 Representative Barbara Mylite on Monday.
At the meeting, held in the auditorium of PS 69 in Jackson Heights, Dromm spoke of his time as a teacher in Queens and expressed his concerns about education cuts and the upcoming budget deadline.
“We have a $3 billion surplus. Why are we even thinking about cuts?” he said. “The mayor doesn’t believe in career educators.
“He must have had a bad teacher when he was young.”
Dromm then accused Mayor Bloomberg of using the teacher cuts to take down the unions.
Bloomberg’s proposed $65.7 billion executive spending plan for fiscal year 2012 calls for about 6,100 fewer teachers.
The City Council is in charge of approving the final budget, which must be in place before the start of the fiscal year on July 1.
Bloomberg has said the layoffs are necessary because of budget cuts from the state and federal governments, as well as rising healthcare and pension costs.
But many council members, including Dromm and Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), argue that the layoffs will be devastating to the school system. They say there are other places the cuts can be made.
“Losing teachers would result in, among other things, larger class sizes and a substantial deterioration of the system’s ability to provide children with the quality education they deserve,” Quinn and Council Finance Chairman Domenic Recchia Jr. (D-Brooklyn) said in a joint statement on June 1.
Quinn and Recchia identified several areas of the Department of Education’s budget they believe could be trimmed in place of teachers, including many top administrative positions, technology and contracts for professional development.
“To date, our alternative cuts total more than $75 million that could be used toward saving teachers and preventing layoffs,” Quinn and Recchia said.
The UFT is asking the council members to intervene and prevent what they call an educational disaster before the July 1 deadline.
At the town hall meeting, Dromm insisted there are other ways to avert the layoff crisis.
“The discussion should not be about cuts. The discussion should be about revenue-raising ideas,” he said.
Parents at the PS 69 meeting said they were worried the cuts would lead to more crowded classrooms. Teachers expressed concerns about tenure and seniority.
Dromm noted that Bloomberg wants to get rid of last in first out, the practice in which the least experienced teachers are the first to be let go when layoffs occur.
The point of tenure is to protect teachers, and Bloomberg wants to take that away, Dromm said.
“Seniority is at the heart of what the unions are about,” and the mayor wants to put an end to that as well, Dromm said.
Union leaders, parents and teachers said they will continue to fight the proposed budget.
“We cannot force the mayor’s hand without the UFT, without teachers rallying,” Dromm said.
Dromm promised those present that he would work for them on the budget.