October 4, 2011
Using new strategies, City Council members are mounting a final push to stave off the school aide layoffs that are scheduled to take place at the end of the week.
Speaker Christine Quinn spoke to Mayor Bloomberg today about the layoffs, according to a Quinn spokesman, who said she plans to schedule a joint public hearing with the Finance and Education Committees to find out more about the scale of the proposed cuts. The DOE has maintained that the layoffs would save at least $38 million, but union officials dispute that total.
“By our calculations, it should be closer to $22 and $25 million,” said District Council 37′s Local 372 president Santos Crespo at a press conference today. The event brought dozens of union and elected officials out in support of Crespo’s union workers. It was then followed by a larger rally this evening that attracted Occupy Wall Street protesters.
Quinn’s announcement comes just days after the Black, Latino and Asian caucus discussed the option following a meeting with Chancellor Dennis Walcott in which little progress was made. Quinn has kept the issue at arms length up to this point, but inveighed against any future teacher layoffs last month on the first day of school.
Crespo, who has offered three concession proposals to Walcott, said the council’s intervention is the union’s best option at this point.
“What’s going to make [the DOE] respond is going to be the City Council. If that happens, then we’ll get to the bottom of this and see where the money is really going.”
A date has not been set for the hearing and would require at least two weeks’ notice, which would fall well after the Oct. 7 deadline when more than 700 pink slips take effect for school aides, parent coordinators and the other non-pedagogical staff members who were cut from school budgets this summer. Still, Crespo said, the jobs could be reinstated after the hearings.
Having failed to break through with Walcott last week, City Council members are now going above his head and straight to City Hall to appeal to Bloomberg. Seventeen council members signed a letter to the mayor that criticizes Walcott and the DOE’s “lack of communication with the Council, and limited efforts to secure additional funds to avoid these cuts.”
“These actions continue to imply that the Department of Education has no intentional of negotiating in good faith to allow hard-working people to keep their jobs servicing the public system,” the letter continues.
A spokesman for the mayor declined to comment on the overtures and said Walcott was “speaking for the administration at this point.”
I’m waiting for a comment from the DOE and will update if it comes.
The full letter from City Council members is below.