It didn’t take long for Governor Cuomo’s proposal to cut $1.5 billion in school aid to bring threats of massive teacher layoffs on Long Island.
Last week Sachem, one of Long Island’s largest districts, notified 375 teachers that they could face layoffs. The district had learned it could lose $16 million in state aid.
In Albany, nine Long Island state senators complained that Cuomo’s cuts were unfairly applied to Sachem and other school districts. Cuomo insisted that many Long Island districts could offset cuts with their ample reserve funds, small consolation.
Of course, the senators legitimately insist that Long Island districts fairly share the pain of a shrinking pie, and Cuomo needs to make the case that they are. But as the state cuts school aid–and Cuomo has no other choice–the state must also end state mandates, and reform state laws that tie the hands of school managers.
For too long the discussion of such labor issues as seniority, tenure, and automatic step increases has been politically taboo in Albany. No more.
Because state laws protect teachers with seniority, Sachem had no other choice than to target younger teachers with layoff notices. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is aggressively challenging such seniority rules, saying schools should decide which teachers to layoff, regardless of when they were hired.
Of course, Governor Cuomo is justified in cutting state school aid, given the state’s $10 billion budget deficit. But he also needs to reform state labor laws so school districts can reward teachers based on their performance, not on the skills of labor negotiators.