Governor Andrew Cuomo expressed support for Mayor Bloomberg’s crusade to end the “Last In, First Out” system of teacher layoffs today, and suggested he was being pragmatic in pushing an objective evaluation bill that stops short of ending the LIFO system.
“There’s a basic agreement that the current system, the ‘Last In, First Out’ system, is not the best way to do layoffs,” the governor said, after delivering one of his roaming budget messages at Wagner College on Staten Island this afternoon.
“We need an alternative system, which is an objective evaluation system. I don’t think there’s any conceptual difference in that point. How we get it done and what’s necessary to get it done, is more complicated.”
Cuomo, as is his wont, said he understands where all of the different groups are coming from.
“Now we can have a chorus of divergent voices, or we can actually get something done,” he said. “As governor my role, I believe, is to try to actually get something done for the people of New York. That’s what I’m going to be doing. In a situation like this to me, the trick is actually making progess and that’s what I’m going to be working on.”
The state Senate has already passed a bill that would end the LIFO system, and, without exactly saying it, Cuomo seemed to be nodding in the direction of the state Assembly, which maintains a more cozy relationship with teachers unions than their counterparts in the upper house.
“You need to get a law passed by the state senate and state assembly,” he said. “This is a very complicated, heated topic and this is very important to the labor movement all across this state and all across this country.”
Cuomo’s proposal was announced Tuesday with immediate support coming from Michael Mulgrew, the president of the United Federation of Teachers, which has opposed Bloomberg’s effort.
The governor disagreed with the mayor’s push to include reforms in the state budget, saying that the bill was akin to ethics reform and property tax reform, which were not treated as appropriations bill. But he said the issue should be addressed as part of the broader wrangling during the budget process.
As for the urgency of the situation–Mayor Bloomberg has said the process needs to be reformed right away, before he begins sending out layoff notices–Cuomo said he understood that too.
“We’re all taking about the same timeframe,” he said. “It’s not tomorrow but it’s not six months from today either.”
The governor resisted speaking directly about the number of layoffs, and whether the city might lose good teachers if the current system was allowed to remain in place when the mayor begins issuing pink slips.
“We won’t really know what the numbers are finally, until we have a state budget,” he said. “There’s an anticipatory nature to all of this: ‘I’m going to get a reduction from the state, because of the reduction from the state.’ Let’s get the actual budget done, find out what the reduction is and then we’ll have a finite number.”
But he insisted his own evaluation proposal was not simply about layoffs.
“I want the affirmative purpose of the evaluation tool,” he said. “What teachers are doing the best job? What methods are working? What schools are working? What school districts are doing the best job? Why? Because we want to know so we can find out what strategies are working, and we’ll emulate them in other places.”
“Now, it can also be used to guide you in layoffs? Yes. But that’s not the primary purpose of the tool.”
Cuomo took questions for a full 20 minutes, and not a single one so much as touched on another topic. Asked, at the end, why he was being so nice to the mayor–who had been less conciliatory in his remarks about the governor–Cuomo said he and Bloomberg are personal friends and that they still have a good working relationship.
“I understand where the mayor wants to go,” he said, “I am committed to helping him.”