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14,800 teachers face loss of jobs
Statewide survey maps budget crisis

Nearly 15,000 teachers across the state could be laid off next school year if Gov. David A. Paterson's proposed $1.3 billion cut in school aid is enacted, according to survey results released Monday by statewide education groups.

The majority of school districts responding to the survey also anticipate increasing class sizes, trimming or eliminating summer school programs and reducing elective courses, extracurricular activities, sports programs and field trips, the New York State School Boards Association and the New York State Council of School Superintendents reported.

"If school districts are going to minimize property tax increases while dealing with rising expenses and decreased state aid, it will be impossible to avoid employee layoffs," said Timothy G. Kremer, president of the School Boards Association.

Responses were received from 323 -- or 46 percent -- of the state's public school superintendents. On average, those superintendents said their districts would have to lay off 4.1 percent of their teaching staff.

By projecting that same figure to other school districts, the survey estimates nearly 6,300 teaching jobs would be eliminated outside New York City. School officials in New York City said another 8,500 teaching jobs could be eliminated there, bringing the statewide total to 14,800.

"School district leaders are doing their best to balance the needs of students and taxpayers," said Robert Bradley, interim executive director of the Council of School Superintendents. "But over 70 percent of our budgets are devoted to personnel who provide programs and services for students."

A spokesman for the Business Council of New York State said those projections underline the need for school districts to make the same "hard choices" that businesses and taxpayers have been making for years.

"New York spends far more per pupil than any other state in the nation," said Michael Moran. "We need to find a way to bring down those costs."

He called for a cap and lowering of teacher salaries, a three-year hiring freeze, mandate relief for schools and reform of the state's Taylor Law, which governs employee relations.

"We can't continue to spend at the rate we're spending," Moran said.

Local school districts also have issued grim projections for next school year. Lockport, for example, might close two schools, cut more than 40 positions, end after-school and summer programs, and still raise taxes more than 10 percent.

Preliminary projections call for eliminating as many as 50 jobs in the West Seneca School District and the loss of more than a dozen jobs in Orchard Park. Buffalo Public Schools face a budget shortfall of $34.2 million.

For years, governors proposed generous increases in state aid for schools, and the State Legislature added millions of dollars on top of that. State financing increased 72 percent over the past decade, more than twice the rate of inflation.

But that pattern seems to be ending. With the state's projected budget deficit growing dramatically, legislators said they see little possibility of significant aid restorations this year.

e-mail: psimon@buffnews.com

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