Assembly Blocks Teacher Layoff Bill

Now the mayor and governor are at odds over the issue

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Andrew Siff reports. (Published Tuesday, Mar 1, 2011)

    Mayor Bloomberg's push to base teacher layoffs on merit rather than seniority stalled Tuesday when the state Assembly refused to review the proposal, and now the mayor and governor are at odds over the issue.

    The bill passed by the Senate to end the so-called "last-in, first-out" policy statewide won't be considered by the Assembly, said the chamber's speaker, Sheldon Silver.

    Meanwhile, Gov. Cuomo announced his own bill to speed up the process of creating a fair system for evaluating teachers.

    "It is time to move beyond the so-called 'last in, first out' system of relying exclusively on seniority," Cuomo said. "However, we need a legitimate evaluation system to rely upon. This will help make a statewide evaluation system ready and allow us to replace 'last in, first out.'"

    Bloomberg, speaking to reporters late Tuesday, said the city needs the law changed immediately, and that the governor's new bill won't help him do what he needs to do -- lay off thousands of teachers this year.

    "Anything else doesn't help us now," he said.

    Privately, aides to both sides are arguing about what Cuomo's bill would achieve; the mayor's side says the union would have to sign off on an evaluation system, and school districts would have to document two years of ineffective ratings before a teacher could be removed based on performance, not counting appeals and other delays.

    As for the Assembly, Silver said it is committed to a teacher evaluation process already under way that could end the use of seniority as the main factor in deciding who is laid off.

    Silver said the objective evaluation system is already required under the state's receipt of hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to improve education under the federal Race to the Top competition.

    "We're not ready to abandon that," Silver said Tuesday. "We made a commitment to the federal government: 'Give us money and we will do this.'"

    Silver said a final report from the state Board of Regents is expected before the end of the legislative session in late June.

    With historic cuts in state aid, however, New York City and school districts statewide may have to resort to thousands of layoffs months before the fall semester.