Bloomberg Takes Flak at Facebook Presser for Comment About Firing Teachers

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Mayor Bloomberg, Sen. Chuck Schumer, and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg announced today that Facebook is opening an engineering office in New York City. Though Facebook already has 100 employees in New York, this is their first engineering office outside the West Coast. It will open in early 2012.

Facebook reps and the assembled politicians emphasized the new office as a boon for employment in New York. "It is accepting applications now, if any of you need jobs," Bloomberg said. But for a moment, the presser switched gears and turned the spotlight on Mayor Bloomberg to defend his comments from yesterday that implied he would be OK with slashing teaching staffs by half.

After a number of Facebook-related questions and groan-inducing jokes from Chuck Schumer ("There's so much to like about Facebook's decision. So much to like -- get it? That was a joke. Subtlety is not my middle name"), one of the assembled reporters took the opportunity to ask Bloomberg about a comment he made yesterday at MIT that sounded as though he would consider firing half of the city's teachers.

Bloomberg defended it, saying that "I didn't say firing half the teachers. I said we should pay our teachers a lot more. I've been saying forever that the most important thing is to attract the best teachers. We are putting our money where our mouth is."

He continued, "I never said fire half of them. I said if you have to spend your money -- if you have to make the choice, I would say better teachers and better pay."

The original comment from yesterday:


Education is very much, I've always thought, just like the real estate business. Real estate business, there are three things that matter: location, location, location is the old joke. Well in education, it is: quality of teacher, quality of teacher, quality of teacher. And I would -- if I had the ability, which nobody does really, to just design a system and say, 'ex cathedra, this is what we're going to do,' you would cut the number of teachers in half, but you would double the compensation of them, and you would weed out all the bad ones and just have good teachers. And double the class size with a better teacher is a good deal for the students.

Bloomberg was also scolded for that quote today in a strongly-worded tweet by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.

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[rgray@villagevoice.com] [@_rosiegray]

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