“Men make their own History, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.”
Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire
As the union negotiated in the summer of 1975 it was rumored that the city had serious financial difficulties, we all thought it was a ploy. As school was about to open the Board laid off 15,000 teachers and the city teetered on the edge of default.
The Board of Estimate (abolished by the charter revision of 1989), dominated by the Borough Presidents, suffering frrom the deadly sin of avarice, spent and spent and drove the city toward bankruptcy. The only leadership was Al Shanker, who agreed to loan the city millions from the teacher pension fund and avert actual default. (well discussed in Richard Kallenberg’s, “The Tough Liberal)
Today, the faltering economy, a State Senate unable to agree on anything (with the exception of raising the charter cap), a weak, lame duck governor, and now a gubernatorial candidate, are driving a budget discussion that almost assures school layoffs.
Lt Governor Ravitch crafted a proposed budget settlement that included borrowing, but also reforms the process and changes the annual budget dance into a more rational system. The Ravitch Plan is opposed by Patterson, it makes Patterson appear impotent, which he is.
The big dog in the room has been Andrew Cuomo, who collected campaign dollars and delayed formally announcing his candidacy until Saturday. He has finally announced, and, with a number of major announcements.
* reform state government by strict ethics rules for legislators and re-organizing and abolishing many state commissions.
* a 2% cap on property tax increases
* no borrowing
* raise the charter school cap.
* attacks on the dysfunction of the state legislature.
Cuomo and his republican contenders are racing to the right, out tea-partying the tea party, running against the very government they want to run, and probably guaranteeing massive layoffs.
State legislators face a dilemma, if they wrestle out a budget they will be attacked from the left, too many cuts in services, and from the right, not enough cuts in services. If they postpone doing a budget, allowing cuts to fall on the newly elected governor and local governments, and wait until after election day, it will become the problem of the new administration.
For Cuomo widespread layoffs and cuts in services play into his “dysfunctional” legislature campaign.
That light at the end of the tunnel increasingly looks like a locomotive.
Michael Mulgrew, the UFT Prez, is trying to squeeze the legislature. For years teacher unions at the state and city level endorsed incumbents rather automatically. For the first time both unions are threatening not only to withhold endorsements but to oppose incumbents. In a throw out the incumbent year legislators are discomforted.
The chancellor, through his hedge fund “cut outs,” is fueling attacks on teacher unions and as muezzin, cries for raising the cap echo throughout the state. Joel Klein appears willing to accept massive layoffs to change seniority rules and entrench charter schools.
For Mayor Bloomberg layoffs would derail his legacy, rather than eight years characterized by dramatic drops in crime, the post 9/11 rebuilding of public confidence, he would be remembered as the Mayor who laid off teachers and hobbled a school system.
Can Bloomberg and Mulgrew avert a budget crisis that culminates in layoffs?
To quote Karl Marx, “Men make their own History,” are the two Michael those men?