June 2011 Issue
June 01, 2011

In Big Five, budget fights go on

Author: Bernie Mulligan
Source: NYSUT United
Caption: Teachers, students and supporters rally against education cuts in Buffalo. Photo by Dennis Stierer.

New York state's five largest school systems — Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Yonkers and New York City — face educator layoffs, larger class sizes, program cuts and other setbacks that deny students what they need.

As other districts were voting on their budget priorities, parents and residents of the Big Five, who don't vote on their budgets, are fighting difficult budget proposals.

In Rochester, schools could lose more than 800 employees to budget cuts. The Rochester Teachers Association, led by Adam Urbanski, worked with community members to get millions of dollars restored for classroom programs. In an effort to avert teacher layoffs, the union will discuss possible monetary sacrifices in bargaining as part of current negotiations for a successor agreement, subject to membership vote.

The Syracuse Common Council, with support from educators, activists and parents, are trying to override the mayor's veto of a spending plan that would deliver much-needed revenue to city schools. The district plans to cut about 470 positions, including 350 layoffs. The Syracuse TA, led by Kevin Ahern, sacrificed by agreeing to a contract extension that gives teachers a smaller raise than originally negotiated, taking a 2.25 increase instead of 4.5, this July 1. The move saves the district $2 million, which will be used to save some positions. All bargaining units will pick up a larger share of their health care costs.

The Buffalo school district's proposed budget cuts spending by about 6 percent, reduces 148 positions, including 84 teaching positions, and will cause significant class size problems. The Buffalo Teachers Federation is led by Phil Rumore.
Hundreds of Yonkers educators maybe be laid off under a proposal by the school board. The board rejected an offer by the Yonkers Federation of Teachers, led by Pat Puleo, to negotiate $3.3 million in contractual changes regarding daily work schedules. Instead they plan to slash pre-kindergarten and extracurricular activities.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposes to lay off 4,100 teachers, and 2,000 other DOE employees may be lost to attrition.

"The mayor is proposing drastic cuts in his budget that would savage our city's most vulnerable citizens, including thousands of teacher layoffs," said United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew.

"He's doing this while protecting the only people in New York who could afford to give back and who aren't paying their fair share — Wall Street bankers and other millionaires. The city has a $3.2 billion surplus, but the mayor refuses to use $270 million of that to avert layoffs."