Democratic mayoral challenger Bill Thompson said something good yesterday: “Can you afford 4 percent [raises for teachers] in the current environment? Probably not,” he told the Daily News editorial board.

Thompson’s right. The education payroll, not including benefits, is already $10.1 billion, up from $7.1 billion in fiscal year 2003, Mayor Bloomberg’s first budget. This 42 percent increase outpaces inflation by 22 percentage points.

Mayor Bloomberg has budgeted for 4 percent teachers’ raises, but his people say that the allocation doesn’t mean much.

We’ll see (maybe). But it certainly would have helped the mayor here if he hadn’t given everyone else similar raises, even as the economy was clearly a) in an unsustainable Wall Street bubble, and, after that, b) in a deep downturn.

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