Teacher cuts planned for Metropolitan

Proposed teacher layoffs could cost Queens Metropolitan High School more than a third of its teachers. Photo by Christina Santucci
By Joe Anuta

The city Department of Education released a list of possible teacher layoffs late Sunday night in response to federal and state budget cuts and two schools at the Metropolitan Campus in Forest Hills could lose more than a third of their teachers.

According to the list based on seniority, six of the 17 teachers at the Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School, at 91-30 Metropolitan Ave., would be cut, along with nine of the 26 teachers at Metropolitan High School, also at 91-30 Metropolitan Ave. — a 35 percent reduction for both. But PS 233, which focuses on special education, would not be affected by the proposed cuts.

City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (R-Forest Hills), the teachers union and parents blasted the layoffs, which Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended as a necessity to balance the budget.

“I am firmly opposed to teacher layoffs and will work with my colleagues in the Council and state government to do everything we can to see that this absurd proposal never comes to fruition,” Koslowitz said. “I will fight tooth and nail against teacher layoffs to ensure that our students can achieve their highest potential.”

The proposed cuts would affect 70 percent of District 28 schools, where 5 percent of all teachers would be laid off. District 28 covers stretches from Rego Park and Forest Hills down to South Jamaica.

PS 55 Maure, at 131-10 97th Ave., would lose 4 percent of its 50 teachers, PS 144, at 93-02 69th Ave., would lose 8 percent of its 53 teachers and Forest Hills High School, at 67-01 110th St., would lose 3 percent of its 187 teachers.

The schools at the Metropolitan Campus are in their first year of operation and will phase in grades one year at a time.

“Frankly, it’s disgusting and it makes me very upset,” said Kathryn Thome a parent of a Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School student. “I don’t even know how they can do it. They have to hire teachers because they have an incoming class. The math doesn’t work and [Metropolitan HS] has 34 kids per class already. If they lose teachers, what is that going to make their class size?”

Marc Lavorgna, a spokesman for the mayor, said the cuts are necessary to rein in the budget deficit and education has suffered less cuts than other city agencies.

“We don’t have any money,” he said. “We have a massive drop in state and federal aid to the city.”

But a representative from the United Federation of Teachers said none of the layoffs are necessary and that the mayor issued the numbers as a scare tactic.

“This is more fear-mongering from Mayor Bloomberg and it is clearly the mayor’s strategy to create a panic among parents, teachers and communities,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said in a statement. “Not only is this fear-mongering irresponsible, with a $3 billion budget surplus he doesn’t need to do layoffs at all.”

But Bloomberg’s office said that the $3.1 billion the UFT is referring to has already been set aside to help soften the blow of next year’s deficit. And it is a practice the administration has used for the past several years.

“We are reducing expenses in the current year to build up dollars and then roll it into the expenses next year,” Lavorgna said. “The money is already accounted for. If we didn’t have those dollars, we would have to lay off more people.”

Lavorgna said that if Albany decides to send more money, to the tune of $1 billion, some of the layoffs might be avoided. But the mayor would also have to consider other city agencies if any additional state money is allocated to the city.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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