Proposed Teacher Layoffs Loom Large in Bed-Stuy

More than half of the schools citywide will see teacher cutbacks as high as 30 percent

On Sunday, the Department of Education released a list detailing how many teachers could lose their jobs in effort to close the city’s budget deficit.

The layoffs, with more than 4,600 teachers total, could affect 80 percent of the 1600 public schools in New York City. And more than half of the schools citywide could see teacher cutbacks as high as 30 percent, due to seniority rules requiring new teachers to be laid off first.

In some cases, they’d be replaced by more senior teachers from other schools.

Schools in Bedford-Stuyvesant will be hit especially hard by the cuts, as much as 44 percent. Those proposed for the highest rate of teacher lay-offs include:

  • Khalil Gibran International Academy -- 44 percent
  • City Polytechnic High School of Engineering -- 41 percent
  • Brooklyn High School for Leadership and community -- 31 percent
  • Bedford-Stuyvesant Preparatory High School -- 30 percent
  • Urban Assembly Institute of Math and Science -- 21 percent
  • Knowledge and Power Preparatory Academy VII -- 15 percent
  • Middle School at Bedford Academy High School -- 14 percent
  • P.S. 011 Purvis J. Behan -- 13 percent
  • ACORN Community High School -- 11 percent
  • Satellite Three -- 11 percent

Most of the layoffs would target elementary school teachers, art and music teachers and physical education teachers with four years' experience or less.

Mayor Bloomberg is pursuing a change in state law requiring teachers with the lowest seniority are let go first.

“Right now, there is a law on the books that says merit doesn’t matter—the last teachers hired are the first to be laid off, period,” said Bloomberg spokeswoman Natalie Ravitz.

“This arbitrary standard means that some schools will lose up to half of their teachers, just because they have chosen to hire teachers new to the profession. There is a better way to do this—we can change the law and keep the best teachers for our kids.”

According to the Bloomberg administration, the city would need roughly $300 million in additional funds to avoid the layoffs. An additional $100 million would be needed to avoid another 1,500 slots through attrition.

However, Bloomberg now says that even if the State were to come up with an additional $400 million, he’s not sure that he would recommend the added money be used on schools, leaving some to wonder whether the threat of layoffs is entirely about money, and whether he plans to use the prospective layoffs as a bargaining chip to get his way with the teachers' union.

“There’s just a limit,” Bloomberg told The New York Daily News on Monday. “We still have a deficit of $600 million. And, you know, if somebody were to come through with $1 billion, that would give us the money to close the deficit and to have money to keep those teachers, if that’s the decision we wanted to make.”

With the prospect of losing their jobs hanging in the air, teachers around the city are outraged.

Bed-Stuy resdient Keedra Gibba, a social studies teacher for only four years at East Flatbush Community Research, is a teacher that could lose her job due to the seniority rule.

“It doesn’t need to happen,” said Gibba. “We have a huge budget that we use for unnecessary services that could be eliminated instead of the teachers. Also, disadvantaged students will be effected because most of the newer teachers placed in their schools will be replaced by teachers with seniority.

"Plus, if we’re reducing the amount of teachers the class sizes will go up, which is put a strain on the neediest schools because those are the ones that will be most effected.”

Parents in Bed-Stuy also are voicing anger at the proposed layoffs.

“Our children are very important, they need their education,” said Bed-Stuy resident Cassandra Townsley, a member of Community Education Council (CEC) 13 and parent of an 11-year-old who attends public school.

“I’m always for children first and they do not deserve the cuts, they do not deserve the pressures they’re receiving at schools. These layoffs would be devastating and that’s why parents have to take a stand and make themselves more vocal and more heard to fight this.”

A bill proposed by a few state lawmakers to end the seniority protection could be introduced today. But it may face an uphill climb in the Democrat-controlled, union-backing Assembly.

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