Sunday, August 16, 2009

Raising Eyebrows

We can't help saying that we told you so-and the 'volte-face' by the UFT on mayoral control had to have some lucrative strings attached. Here's what we said last month: "Let's be very clear. Mayoral control was effected because it was passed in the Assembly in spite of fairly strong opposition from city assembly members. The assembly has been lavishly funded by the UFT-and the union's thumb on the scale of mayoral control would have been its death knell, So, what happened? Put simply, a deal was made between Bloomberg and the union-something that will be revealed, like the proverbial player to be named later, when the teachers' contract is announced."

And now we have the following confirmation of the underlying deal, according to the NY Post (any change of heart?): "A hard bargain? Hardly. Despite the worst economy in nearly four decades, the Bloomberg administration has allocated money to hike teacher salaries by 8 percent over the next two years, documents show -- even before it sits down for contract negotiation talks."

Now keep in mind that this is the same Mike Blomberg that only a few days ago was crowing about his refusal to knuckle under to the quid pro quo demands by DC-37. His refusal, however, was probably based on the fact that he had already been bled dry by the teachers' deal: "Many labor insiders have been wondering what Randi Weingarten's United Federation of Teachers would get in return for supporting mayoral control of schools and city pension reforms, both major Bloomberg initiatives that the group initially opposed. They think the answer might be the big raises and other concessions."

Yah think? And take a look at what good old generous Mike has done for our educators: "Bloomberg has pointed out that during his time in office, he has raised teachers' salaries by slightly more than 40 percent, with a large part of those hikes tied to educators working longer days. If the allocated money is used as expected, Bloomberg will have raised overall teacher pay by 50 percent."

And the bang for the buck? Well, here's where the use of proper oversight would come in-and the recently passed legislation to re-authorize mayoral control is strangely AWOL on this crucial variable (except for the state senate's belated oversight committee). But a look at the numbers-watered down tests, a budget that has been doubled, and flat performance on the more accurate NAEP exams-indicates to us that the money is only being put to its best use in raising, not the educational standards of our students, but the standard of living of our educators.

But keep in mind that this is the same mayor who has been raising salaries-and commensurate pension obligations-for his entire term: "The potential raises would be nearly double the 2 percent inflation forecast for the next two years and would cost taxpayers hundreds of millions.
An 8 percent boost would be consistent with other union settlements since 2007. But those deals were negotiated before the city's dramatic fiscal crisis. Now the city faces a $5 billion-plus budget gap projected for the next fiscal year, which is expected to be particularly difficult to close."

So, the guy who has been consistently giving away the store-raising the public payroll at the tax payers' expense-is now the man who is best situated to lead us in economic hard times? "It's absolutely the wrong thing to do," said Steven Malanga, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. "Inflation in New York is at zero or below. There's really been no cost-of-living gain. The private sector is suffering, not just from job cuts, but from wage cuts, reduction of bonuses, et cetera." He noted that the national unemployment rate in the private sector is 9.5 percent -- but in the public sector, it's 2.3 percent. "There's this incredible disproportion in the burden," Malanga said."

This is a pretty bad hand being dealt to New Yorkers. And the best thing that the voters can do now, is to deal the mayor out.