New York City may have to eliminate 8,500 teaching positions next year if proposed doomsday budget cuts go through in Albany.
That was Schools Chancellor Joel Klein's message today to the City Council's Education Committee.
After he testified before the committee, Klein said officials need to look for more ways to close a $1.2 billion budget gap without having to lay off teachers.
"We want to do as much as possible to make sure the quality of educational services to our children is not affected," Klein says. "That's gotta be, for all the adults, the focus."
Klein says he'll make more cuts to the administrative budget and double his efforts to secure federal funds under the Race to the Top program. He also wants state lawmakers to change the law that restrict how officials to make layoff decisions.
"We would be required to execute layoffs strictly on the basis of seniority, without regard to the effectiveness of individual teachers, or to their expertise," Klein says.
He is calling on state lawmakers to change that law, known as "last in, first out." But some council members and teachers union president Michael Mulgrew accused Klein of seeking to eliminate the highest-paid teachers.
"Trying to tell people that your years of service can be used against you because of your salary, I think that's sending a pretty clear message that you don't care about the people who work for you," Mulgrew says.
During his testimony before the council, Mulgrew said a retirement incentive would be a more just way to save money.