Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced on Wednesday that he will not lay off 4,400 teachers this fall as expected.
But in exchange for retaining the teachers' jobs, the mayor wants New York City teachers and principals to forgo raises for the next two years.
"I know that we are asking you to make a difficult sacrifice at a time when many of your families are struggling to make ends meet," New York City School Chancellor Joel Klein wrote in a letter to school principals. "But at a time when the City--indeed the entire country--is being forced to make do with less, this plan allows us to retain the most important ingredient in our schools: the hardworking educators who each day are making a real difference in the lives of our students.”
The city is facing a shortfall of $500 million in school aid from Albany. The Department of Education says a freeze on raises will save $400 million annually.
Despite the mayor’s announcement that New York City teachers and principals will not get raises, both teachers' unions said that Mayor Bloomberg can not unilaterally freeze their wages for the next two years without coming to the bargaining table. The city’s last offer was a 2 percent wage increase for teachers and principals.
“This is a process that the UFT has been involved with for 50 years which is called negotiating contracts,” said Michael Mulgrew, the president of the United Federation of Teachers. "And if the mayor has a proposal, then he needs to take it to the PERB (Public Employment Relations Board) board which is where it’s supposed to be."
But Chancellor Klein says Mayor Bloomberg does have the authority to freeze principals' and teachers' wages because both unions' contracts expired months ago. Even without the layoffs, New York City schools are expected to face budget cuts averaging 4 percent. The unions say they will work with the city to lobby the state and federal government for more education funds.