AMITYVILLE - State lawmakers took the first step yesterday toward ending seniority-based teacher layoffs in New York City schools by including merit in the mix, forcing Long Islanders to wonder if it may soon happen here as well.

NYSUT, the state's largest union, likened the state Senate bill to "Wisconsin-style politics," claiming that ending seniority would "dismantle fairness in layoffs" and give principals the ability to "arbitrarily decide whom to lay off."

Higher-paid teachers complain they'll get laid off because they earn more money. Younger teachers, however, say a merit system levels the playing field.

"I believe whatever system is created or recreated will have to include the teacher-effectiveness component," says teacher Tina Smith, of Amityville.

In the Amityville School District, more than 50 teachers received letters warning them of possible layoffs. Amityville Schools Superintendent Dr. John Williams says there is little he can do under the current seniority-based system.