It seems clear that both Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Michael Bloomberg agree that merit, not seniority, ought to be the decisive factor in identifying teachers who may be laid off. But the tricky part is politics.
After the Republican-controlled State Senate passed a bill that would have done away with the dreaded last-in, first-out layoff policy, Mr. Cuomo unveiled a counterproposal that called for a slower approach toward the same goal. Mr. Bloomberg hit the ceiling; he wants a solution now, because the city very likely will have to lay off nearly 5,000 teachers in the coming months. But Mr. Cuomo understands that it’s one thing to demand radical change. It’s quite another thing to achieve it, especially when so many other issues, like pension reform, demand immediate attention.
The governor and the mayor have since made it clear that they intend to work together to end LIFO, although nobody seems quite sure how the measure will get through the Democrat-controlled Assembly, which generally snaps to attention when the teachers’ union issues its policy demands.
Politics and trade-offs inevitably will decide how and when LIFO is repealed. It won’t be pretty getting there, but it’s the destination, not the process, that really matters.
Mr. Bloomberg deserves credit for his passion. Few politicians, even the Republicans in the State Senate, are thrilled about tackling such a controversial issue. The United Federation of Teachers holds grudges, and those who support LIFO repeal surely will feel the UFT’s wrath during next year’s legislative campaigns. But the mayor is beyond the UFT’s control. He’s a lame duck who simply wants Albany to act in the best interests of the city’s public school children.
Give him credit for pushing Albany to do the right thing.