Bloomberg says he’d spend more for better teachers, ‘never said fire half of them’

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg is trying to clarify what he meant during a recent speech at MIT when he suggested that he would, if he had the absolute ability to build a school system from scratch, hire half the existing number of New York City public school teachers and pay them twice as much.

"I never said fire half of them," Bloomberg said this afternoon in Manhattan, when asked about the comments. "I said, if you have to spend your money, spend—I'd rather have better teachers, if I'd have to make the choice, I would have better teachers, better paid than a lot of other things that people would like to have to improve education."

"Bloomberg: If I Had it May Way I'd Dump Half of NYC's Teacher's" was the headline from a CBS New York story about Bloomberg's speech at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology earlier this week.

A number of elected officials, including Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, sharply criticized Bloomberg for the remark.

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The mayor and his aides have said the reporting about his comments at MIT was incomplete and inaccurate and that what he actually said isn't new.

"Nothing I've said in Boston I haven't said for the last ten years," Bloomberg said this afternoon at event in Manhattan at which he helped announce the opening of a Facebook office. "I don't know why you have't paid attention."

"If you were going to start from scratch, you'd want to go and get the best teachers and you have to pay them more to get them which means you're going to have fewer teachers. Nobody is talking about laying off anybody."

Bloomberg said he helped raise salaries for teachers at a faster rate than for members of other public unions, underscoring what he said was his appreciation for the work they do.

"The teachers union should be very happy," he said. "Every other union got a one-third raise for their people, 33 percent over the last 10 years; the teachers got a 105 percent, 110 percent raise over the last 10 years. If that doesn't show how much we care about teachers, I don't know what does."