The thought that the city may be forced to lay off teachers in public schools is disturbing. Classes are already overcrowded. Nevertheless, if Gov. Andrew Cuomo cuts $1.5 billion in public school aid, the city may have no other choice. The mayor, the United Federation of Teachers and the City Council are hoping it does not come to that. It may be that there will be no other way to close the budget gap.
Then the question will be how to decide which teachers are the first to go. The mayor has said that the decision should be based on teacher performance, not seniority. In this way, the city will retain the best teachers, not just the ones who have been around the longest. That sounds good.
But how will the city Department of Education determine which teachers are performing well and which should go? As has become clear in the controversy surrounding the closing of Jamaica High School, the judgment of DOE bureaucrats is questionable. It seems the performance of teachers will be measured by how well students do on standardized tests.
We hope this does not happen. We shudder at the thought of teachers spending the better part of each semester preparing their students for standardized tests. This is not what they planned to do when they chose teaching as a profession.
If layoffs become necessary, hopefully the mayor and the UFT can find a system to ensure that the most skilled and dedicated teachers are retained.
City Councilmen Daniel Dromm and Mark Weprin are skeptical. Dromm, a former teacher and openly gay, said he might have been let go because of his sexual preference. He also expressed concern that principals would elect to lay off better-paid, experienced teachers in order to hire multiple teachers at lower salaries.
Meanwhile, we support the mayor in his fight against unfunded mandates that have cost the education system millions of dollars. One such mandate requires the city to send some special education students to private schools even if their parents have not considered public schools. The truth is the city, and Queens particularly, offers outstanding programming for special education students at no cost to families.