D.C. 37

New York

Walcott announces mental health funds, threatens aide layoffs

Dozens of schools will get new access to mental health services for their students under a $30 million initiative that Chancellor Dennis Walcott unveiled today. Walcott introduced the new initiative during a City Council hearing about the Department of Education's proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins on July 1. Chancellor Dennis Walcott testifies at City Council's budget hearing today. The Department of Education's proposed budget is $19.7 billion, 1.5 percent higher than this year. The increase, which comes after three years of budget cuts, is allowing the city to add teachers rather than cut them this year. But Walcott cautioned that the city would still have to lay off 225 school workers who are represented by the District Council 37 union. Principals cut the workers loose last year but the department has been covering their costs, according to Walcott, who called the arrangement "unsustainable." “I don’t want to see any layoffs, I know DC 37 doesn’t want to either, and most of all, neither do the men and women affected by the prospective loss of employment,” said Walcott. “If we can work with the union to identify savings and concessions to offset these costs, layoffs are avoidable, and I’m hopeful this can be accomplished.” The department laid off around 700 school aides in October after negotiations to save their jobs failed. A DC-37 official declined to comment immediately on the threatened layoffs, saying that the union was surprised by Walcott's comments before the council.
New York

Unions are split on endorsement in Brooklyn congress race

The two unions that, put together, represent the vast majority of the city school system's employees, took differing approaches to endorsing candidates of a tight Congressional primary race in Brooklyn this afternoon. One of them, DC-37, which represents 25,000 Department of Education employees, endorsed Councilman Charles Barron in what some attributed to a not-so-subtle rejection of his opponent's supportive position on charter schools. The other, the United Federation of Teachers, which represents 75,000 teachers and 200,000 members in total, just announced that it wouldn't endorse anyone at all. Neither union mentioned Barron's opponent, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, in their emailed statements. Jeffries is the favored candidate among his fellow elected officials and has already collected an endorsement from the city's powerful Healthcare Workers Union. Jeffries has been vocal on education issues in the past year and has not always seen eye-to-eye with the teachers union. Last summer, Jeffries and fellow Brooklyn Assemblyman Karim Camara wrote an op-ed explaining their opposition to a lawsuit against charter school co-locations that was brought but the UFT and NAACP. He later gave a more absolute endorsement of charter schools, the vast majority of which are staffed with non-union employees, he visited one in Bedford-Stuyvesant last year. “Over the past year, city workers and their unions have had to fight major battles to protect rights that we fought hard to win as well as to preserve the vital safety-net services we provide to an ever-growing clientele," said DC-37 Executive Director Lilian Roberts in a statement.
New York

City's early childhood overhaul moves forward, draws criticism

An overhaul of the city's child-care offerings that has concerned providers and advocates for nearly a year took a major step forward today, when the city announced which centers would receive new contracts for next year. The city awarded contracts to 149 child-care providers on the basis of quality and experience. But providers that together currently offer more than 6,500 spots did not get contracts. On top of the proposed cuts to after school programs included in Mayor Bloomberg's budget proposal, more than 14,000 city children could go without care next year. The overhaul, called EarlyLearn, is meant to improve the quality of city-funded programs and allocate seats more efficiently across neighborhoods. Last fall, providers had to reapply for contracts with the city — and the requirements were steep. Here's what we wrote about the reauthorization process last summer: The new standards are steep: Programs must show how they provide support to parents, create a challenging curriculum that prepares students for kindergarten and instruct children in health and safety. They need to find more time for staff development, guarantee service for children with special needs and be assessed annually according to a new grading program. Children will need to be screened for health, social and hygienic needs and assessed for academic gains. Some programs will have to expand their hours of operation. And for the first time, centers will need to pay for a portion of this themselves. Resistance to the overhaul has grown as its implications have grown clearer.
New York

Quinn says council will hold a public hearing on DC 37 layoffs

A rally against the planned layoffs of school aides who belong to DC-37 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."
New York

School aides union and DOE in talks to prevent layoffs

New York

Principals cut 2,000+ teaching jobs; city plans school layoffs

Budget cuts caused principals to cut thousands of positions this year, but the total number of teachers without permanent jobs rose only slightly, the Department of Education revealed today. The Bloomberg administration also announced plans to lay off nearly 800 school employees who do not belong to the teachers union, which negotiated a deal in June to avert layoffs. Most of those employees — 737 of 777 — belong to DC-37, which represents school aides and other auxiliary school personnel. The layoffs are set to start in October. When the city announced in July that schools would have to cut an average of 2.43 percent from their budgets, many principals complained that they had little fat to trim. They said they would have to turn to eliminating necessary positions and sending junior teachers to the Absent Teacher Reserve, the pool of teachers whose positions were cut or lost as a result of school closures or enrollment changes. In the end, they sent 2,186 teachers to the ATR pool this summer. More than a thousand of those teachers have already left the pool, either by finding new positions or leaving the system. A DOE spokeswoman said many of the teachers were rehired by their original schools after funding became available to keep them there. That leaves 1,940 teachers in the ATR pool with just weeks before the start of the school year.  Last year, the pool contained 1,779 teachers just before classes began. Though small, the growth in the size of the ATR pool still places added financial stress on the department.
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