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May 30, 2012
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.
May 23, 2012
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.
May 4, 2012
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.
November 14, 2011
School aides union planning to sue to undo last month's layoffs
Santos Crespo, a local president for the DC-37 labor union, on the last day of work for nearly 700 school aides last month. The union that represents school aides is suing to roll back layoffs of nearly 650 members that took place last month. Lawyers for District Council 37, which includes school aides and parent coordinators, plan to file a lawsuit over the layoffs on Wednesday, according to a press release the union just sent out. The suit will argue that the Department of Education acted in bad faith during its negotiations with DC-37 over the jobs, declining to consider other ways to save money or considering whether the City Council and principals might pitch in with their funds. It will also argue that the DOE violated state law by conducting layoffs that disproportionately affected schools with many poor students. Principals chose to cut school aide positions over the summer as they hammered out slimmed-down budgets for this year, and the layoffs took place in October after charged negotiations between DC-37 and the city failed.
October 7, 2011
Tears, vows to fight back, punctuate school aides' final workday
Santos Crespo, a local president for the DC-37 labor union, denounces layoffs on last day of work for more than 700 school aides. For many parents at Marta Valle High School, Cliftonia Johnson, a school aide, was the first line of defense when their children cut class. Johnson, 48, has spent two years at the Lower East Side School, where she works as a community associate, taking attendance and communicating with families of students who skip school—a job that sometimes requires calling hundreds of parents on the phone each week. She was one of close to 700 public school aides laid off today because of city budget cuts. Speaking this afternoon in front of City Hall at the latest of several rallies that District Council-37 union workers have held this month to denounce the district-wide layoffs, Johnson said her position is invaluable to her school community: “These high school kids barely come to school. It’s tough to get them to go to school because a lot of them don’t believe they’re worthy of an education, and you need someone who looks like them to tell them they are worthy,” she said. Johnson, who is black, echoed union criticisms that the layoffs disproportionally targeted people of color, to the detriment of school communities with substantial minority populations. “If you take our [outreach] away, you’re making it worse. ”
October 5, 2011
Despite ongoing DC-37 protest, Walcott says layoffs fight is over
City Council members, union officials, and parents spent yesterday agitating for a last-minute deal to avert layoffs planned for more than 700 school aides. Council…
October 4, 2011
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."
September 15, 2011
School aides union and DOE in talks to prevent layoffs
Hundreds of Department of Education employees doomed to lose their jobs next month might not be laid off after all. Talks to avert the layoffs of 737 school aides were rekindled this afternoon between the DOE and labor officials representing the employees, according to union officials who are directly involved in the negotiations. "I can tell you that we made significant proposals to see if we can prevent these layoffs," said one of the sources, who requested anonymity because negotiations were ongoing. "I feel very positive about the meeting today." The layoffs to non-pedagogical school staff were abruptly announced last month by the DOE and came after the city blamed the employees' unions for not providing "any real savings that could have saved these jobs." The layoffs caught union leaders at DC-37, the city's largest municipal union and its affiliate Local 372 off guard. Local 372 President Santos Crespo, who said he attended this afternoon's meeting, criticized the layoffs as political and being too heavily concentrated in the city's poor and minority communities. The drama over layoffs at the Department of Education has persisted since last year, when Mayor Bloomberg first announced that thousands of teachers' jobs would have to be cut because of widening gaps in the budget. Those talks temporarily ceased in late June, however, when the teachers union agreed to concessions in an eleventh hour deal to avert the layoffs.
September 7, 2011
On eve of school year, parents take aim at school aide layoffs
The city should rethink the money used on outside consultants to save the jobs of the school aides, health workers, and parent coordinators…
August 23, 2011
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.
May 24, 2010
City says strapped schools can go without parent coordinators
Joining 6,400 teachers on the chopping block are 350 parent coordinators whose schools will no longer be required to employ them, Chancellor Joel Klein announced today. For the first time since the position was created in 2003, high schools will be allowed to go without a parent coordinator, Klein told principals today, saving up to 350 schools just over $40,000 a year each. Parent coordinators whose jobs are eliminated will be at high risk of layoff, according to Department of Education spokeswoman Ann Forte. Elementary and middle schools are still required to keep a parent coordinator on staff. The instruction is a stark example of how budget cuts could undo some of Mayor Bloomberg's most ambitious education initiatives. The creation of the parent coordinator position in January 2003 was a central element of Bloomberg and Klein's early reforms. Klein also announced today that the Fair Student Funding formula the city devised to fund schools according to their students' needs no longer covers some schools' essential costs.
October 27, 2009
School aides facing layoffs have jobs for another week
The roughly 500 school aides the city has targeted for layoffs will keep their positions for another week under an extension of a temporary restraining order first issued last week. State Supreme Court Justice Carol Edmead ruled today that officials from D.C. 37, the union that represents the school aides and plaintiffs in the case, made a convincing argument that the layoffs violate parts of the state constitution and education law. Edmead focused on D.C. 37's argument that the city is illegally replacing unionized school aides with less expensive temporary workers who will not receive benefits. The judge found that the Department of Education's contract for temporary workers to perform many of the same duties of the laid-off school aides may violate the state constitution and a chancellor's regulation that requires school workers to report to the education department.
October 23, 2009
East Harlem parents call for city to save their school aides
Sheanica Davis is set to lose her job at Mosaic Preparatory Academy. Parents and staff at an East Harlem elementary school are protesting the city's plan to lay off all of their school aides. Rallying outside of the entrance of Mosaic Preparatory Academy as school let out this afternoon, parents, students and staff called for the city to save their five school aides' jobs. The school is slated to lose the five people who currently hold the positions, not the positions themselves. Parent coordinator Maria Torres said that Mosaic's principal, Lisette Caesar, has money in the school's budget to preserve the aide jobs. But because the aides were all hired just a year ago when the school opened, they are among the most junior aides in the district, and thus the first to receive pink slips. "Our principal has been trying to keep them, and the parents have been doing everything they can," said Rose Jimenez, the president of Mosaic's parent association. "If we can afford to keep them, it sounds unfair." One of Mosaic's aides, Sheanica Davis, said that her main job is to keep students safe. She scrolled through a list of parents in her cell phone's contact list, saying that she keeps in regular touch with many of them, assuring them that their children have arrived to school on time and are eating healthy meals.
October 15, 2009
Poised to lay off school aides, city is hit with a restraining order
A day before the Department of Education had planned to dismiss over 500 school aides, a judge has issued a temporary restraining order preventing the layoffs from going through. State Supreme Court Justice Carol Edmead ruled today that before the city laid off hundreds of "the most vulnerable employees," the Court had to ensure that the layoffs did not violate the state's constitution and the education law. Officials from DC 37, the union that represents the school aides, argued in court yesterday that the city was laying off civil servants in order to replace them with less expensive temporary workers who are not given health benefits.
October 2, 2009
DC 37 accuses education department of "union-busting"
Today was the last day of work for more than a hundred school aides whose union says they were laid off because of mismanagement rather than budget cuts. District Council 37, the city's largest municipal union, attacked the education department this afternoon for what they called "a clear case of union-busting." In a statement, Veronica Montgomery-Costa, president of DC 37's Local 372 chapter, accused Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein of diverting resources out of the school system into no-bid contracts. The union also resurrected the summer's fight over parent-funded school aides, saying that those privately-funded positions undercut union jobs, resulting in the loss of over 700 positions.
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