When the Bloomberg administration raised the prospect of teacher layoffs this year, administration officials complained that they would be forced to get rid of the youngest newest teachers, and called on legislators to rewrite the seniority rules.
That wish may be one step closer. Two Democratic state lawmakers have sponsored a bill that would give principals in New York City the power to choose who should lose their jobs if the city needs to lay off teachers because of budget cuts.
The bill is certain to raise the ire of teachers’ unions, which remain a powerful force in Albany. It could provoke also a new round of battles between the United Federation of Teachers and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who have had an icy relationship for months and are fighting over a new teachers’ contract.
Mr. Bloomberg has said that as many 8,500 teachers would face layoffs, as the city’s Education Department faces a budget cut of $600 million to $1.2 billion. Under the current law, teachers who have been in the system for the shortest amount of time would be the first to lose their jobs — a policy commonly known as last in, first out.
Last month, the schools chancellor, Joel I. Klein, released numbers showing that the layoffs would be concentrated in the one of the wealthiest and one of the poorest districts in the city: in a worst-case situation, District 7 in the South Bronx would lose 21 percent of its teachers and District 2 on the Upper East Side would lose 19 percent, according to the city analysis. Some of those teachers would be replaced by more-senior teachers from elsewhere in the system.
“Experience matters, but it cannot be the sole or even principal factor considered in layoff decisions,” Mr. Klein said in a statement. “We must be able to take into account each individual’s track record of success.”
Jonathan Bing, a Democratic assemblyman from the Upper East Side, said lobbyists from the city had approached him about sponsoring the bill soon after the city released those numbers.
“There needs to be some better way to go about doing this than to simply get rid of every teacher we have hired in the last few years,” Mr. Bing said. “This has to be, on some level, about merit.”
Mr. Bing said he had “great respect for teachers,” noted that the union had donated to several of his political campaigns and acknowledged that the bill would almost certainly anger it.
“We are in an educational and economic crisis like no other,” he added.
Under the bill, each school would form a committee of parents, teachers and administrators to determine who should be laid off.
Seniority protection is dear to labor unions, who say that without it, employers would use layoffs to eliminate workers who make the most money.
Michael Mulgrew, the president of the United Federation of Teachers, said that in other cities that had eliminated seniority, like Washington, the rate of teacher turnover had increased, making the system less stable.
“I would like to see something more fruitful to figure out how to avoid the catastrophic cuts,” Mr. Mulgrew said Monday.
The city appealed to State Senator Rubén Díaz of the Bronx to sponsor the bill in the Senate, although just last year Mr. Díaz said that Mr. Klein should be fired.
“I used to be angry at the way they were treating parents,” Mr. Díaz said. “Now this would allow parents to have a role. If a school needs to get rid of teachers, they should be able to decide their own special needs.”