Members of the Assembly Call on Unions to Voluntarily Freeze Pay to Avert Teacher Lay-Offs

$1.2 Billion in potential savings, 14,800 lay-offs averted
March 23, 2010

Albany – Assemblymembers Sam Hoyt, Michael Benjamin, Ginny Fields and Sandy Galef today sent a letter to Richard Iannuzzi, President of New York State United Teachers, asking his affiliates to consider voluntary postponements of base and step pay increases in order to avoid nearly 15,000 lay-offs.

Hoyt said, “I subscribe to the old saying, ‘What injures one injures all,’ and would hope that the statewide union leadership will consider this option as an alternative to massive lay-offs. Lay-offs of this size hurt children and their families as a result of either increased class sizes, increased property taxes or both”

The Governor’s education budget proposal included $1.4 billion in cuts. These cuts were supported by the Senate’s budget resolution. According to a recent survey of superintendents across the state these cuts would result in nearly 15,000 teachers being laid off. These lay-offs would impact class sizes, vital programs and enrichment opportunities for students in almost every district.

The letter emphasized that this was not an action prompted to punish teachers, but instead to help make them a part of a solution to New York’s unprecedented budget crisis. By forgoing these automatic raises a little over $1 billion could be saved. These savings would keep teachers in the classrooms and ensure that balancing the budget does not impede the state’s ability to provide a quality education to all of its children.

Fields said, “The state simply does not have the money and the deficit cannot be closed without making harsh cuts. No one wants to see massive teacher lay-offs. It will impact our schools and hurt our kids. If the union agrees to forgo base and step pay increases, we can save those 15,000 teaching positions along with $1 billion dollars. The decision between keeping the increases or going one year without raises and maintaining the quality of education our children receive is not a hard decision to make.”

Benjamin said, “"In these precarious economic times, New York teachers --and other public employees-- must act smartly and avoid the selfish instinct to 'beggar thy neighbor.' We benefit in the long-run when we make sacrifices on behalf of children. I urge NYSUT to put New York's school children first."

Galef said, “Many school districts have asked us at the state level to step in and see if we can help them help our schools and school children. We have asked unions at the state level to look at furloughs, and other salary reductions. Now we are hoping the teachers union can help at an aggregate level to work with school districts to save jobs and help our children.”

Hoyt concluded, “Time and again the Legislature has taken the necessary steps to help protect teachers and students from bearing the brunt of the worst of the state’s fiscal crisis. We can no longer avoid the inevitable cuts that have to be made to education, but with NYSUT as a partner, we can hopefully find a way to keep teachers in the classrooms and still balance our budget.”

Please click here to see the letter.