YONKERS, N.Y. (CBS 2) — There’s high anxiety in New York’s fourth largest city, as Yonkers schools face crushing program cuts in a faceoff between the city and its teachers union.
The awful news was just beginning to sink in on Wednesday, like a painful blow to the body, as many Yonkers teachers realized they’re out of a job, reports CBS 2’s Lou Young.
“You don’t know what you’re going to do next year, you know? What do I do, what do I tell my children?” teacher Alisha Doran said. “How do you pay the mortgage? How do you pay the car bills?”
“It’s going to be scary. They’ve cut all extracurricular sports and activities, every counselor, social worker, psychologist was cut, 322 instructional staff members,” teacher Effie Koutros said. “I’m fearful what’s going to happen to these children.”
The Yonkers school system is in crisis, underfunded and out of cash – caught in a system seemingly without accountability.
“We’re not Scarsdale, we’re not Chappaqua, we’re not Mount Pleasant,” Patricia Puleo, of the Yonkers Education Association, said. “We don’t vote on our budgets.”
While people in most of New York State voted on school budgets Tuesday, Yonkers parents could only complain. Yonkers is one of five state school systems dependent, by law, on Albany.
Yonkers Schools Superintendent Bernard Pierorazio was practically on his hands and knees asking for union give-backs just to survive.
“I’m begging,” he said. “We want to keep everyone working, and sacrifice is needed from everyone.”
Yonkers Mayor Phil Amicone, too, blames the state, but he believes the unions can help in the short term.
“We’re doing things out of the ordinary to try and save the education system for the kids,” Mayor Amicone said. “Do the same thing. You’re the teachers.”
A spokesman for the State Division of Budgets in Albany told CBS 2’s Lou Young that Governor Andrew Cuomo, too, seems to be pushing the unions back to the table for additional concessions. He said that’s part of the solution as an entire state adjusts to a grim new fiscal reality.
If no deal is reached, the Yonkers layoffs and cutbacks will become law when the city council adopts its budget early next month.