When New York City laid off 15,000 teachers in the 1970s in response to a fiscal crisis, most never returned, even when they were called back. Class sizes swelled, and then became the “new normal.” Even after the economy recovered, the school system found it difficult to recruit new teachers, who were fearful about job security.
Now the city administration is poised to repeat the error-scarred past, according to a new report [PDF] released today from Public Advocate Bill de Blasio’s office. Only a week remains until the city adopts its next budget, de Blasio warns. We should heed the lessons and not endanger another generation of students.
“[I]t is essential to remember how difficult it will be to shield future students from the damage of those cuts, even well after the onset of a strong economic recovery,” according to the report, “How Teacher Layoffs Could Set Back Schools for Years to Come.” When the city eventually recalled 9,000 teachers in 1978-79, only 2,360 actually agreed to return. The “vast brain drain” meant the city for years afterwards had a disproportionately inexperienced teacher workforce, much larger classes than the rest of the state and in many ways a second-class public education system. Is this what we’re facing, again?