I'm putting on my fortune teller hat again, temporarily putting the propeller beanie to the side. And my prediction for the current fiscal year is: There will be no layoffs of teachers in NYC.
If you've been around the block a few times as I have, you know that the city predicts teacher layoffs just about every time a new teacher contract rolls around (odd coincidence, that). Yet the last time any actual teachers were laid off was in the 1970s. I'm not saying that there are no real economic difficulties; clearly there are. But I don't think anyone will lose their jobs over them, and here's why.
First, I think the threat is largely another implementation of the Shock Doctrine by Mayor4Life Bloomberg. He uses it all the time (see here and here). If you're unfamiliar, the Shock Doctrine is when politicians uses crises to help them implement unpopular policies. GW Bush pushed through an entire bogus war using 9/11 for political cover, and then set about eviscerating many of our cherished civil liberties (such as not getting waterboarded because you look Middle Eastern). Our mayor, however, has added a new twist to the doctrine. He's using it not to get layoffs, but to get what are, to him, the right layoffs. His goal is to twist the arm of the union and state by threatening layoffs in order to be able to fire senior teachers. Mayor4Life doesn't like senior teachers because we make those incredibly high salaries that cost almost as much as his weekend jaunts to Bermuda. Now that it's apparent that even Michael Mulgrew isn't going to give in on "last in first out", the mayor has no reason to push for layoffs. They would just make him look like the crummy mayor he is, like the NAEP scores do.
Second, the state always shortchanges the city in their preliminary budget proposals, and they always restore at least some of the cuts before the budget is final.
Third, President Obama doesn't want to look like any more of an idiot on education than he already does. Think of it--he's dangling 4 billion dollars in front of states in the form of Race to the Top funds that can't even be used to avert layoffs. How's it going to look when he gives 700 million to New York and then says we can't use it to save teachers--but we can buy a lot of new shiny data systems with it? At this moment, there is a bill in the senate to spend 23 billion nationwide to avert teacher layoffs, with 400 million going to NY. Obama would have to be a fool not to sign it after bailing out banks, oil companies, and every other rich institution he could think of. Not only that, massive teacher layoffs would cause the unemployment numbers to spike--the very last thing Obama wants.
Finally, and perhaps the weakest link in the chain, is the UFT itself. Mulgrew has already floated a retirement incentive proposal that would accomplish what the mayor wants (to get rid of senior teachers) and what the union wants (to maintain the same level of dues). It seems like a perfect match. And from a logical standpoint, the city pretty much has to go along at this point, because a lot of teachers who probably would have retired in June without the incentive will now wait until an incentive gets done. My only hesitation about this one is that Mulgrew has shown no ability to get anything done unless it hurts the membership. It remains to be seen if he can do anything to help.
So there you have it. No layoffs. Of course, none of this will get done before pink slips go out, because by law they have to go out shortly. Still, I predict we'll soon see Klein, Mayor4Life, and Mulgrew standing on the steps of city hall, hands raised in solidarity and triumph, announcing how they worked together to save NY schools and the world. We can only hope they don't kiss.