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Sunday, December 28, 2008

About Teachers Sent to Reserve Positions

The New Teacher Project, one of the methods used to push NYC teachers out of the system through reserve status, is just another part of the rubberization process. The fact of the matter is that excellent, dedicated public school teachers and staff are being eliminated from the lives of our children for improbable cause and without justice or due process. Schools are closed, opened, moved, changed, or whatever as part of a massive real estate take-over by the powers that be in New York City and a political strategy to re-direct huge amounts of dedicated federal funds into the pockets of the few who have been able to buy/influence/strongarm themselves into positions of power. Then, these people buy/shut down the media and the court system so that they can get away with their plans.

If we, parents, teachers, journalists, or whoever, keep exposing what we know (and can prove, folks!!!)we will bring change.

April 29, 2008
$81 Million for Reserve of Teachers

New York City is paying $81 million over two years in salaries and benefits for teachers without permanent teaching jobs, according to a report being released on Tuesday.

The teachers are part of the so-called reserve pool, which holds teachers whose positions have been eliminated, but who have yet to secure a new permanent teaching position at another school.

The reserve is an outgrowth of the city’s contract with the teachers’ union, which ended seniority rights in staffing decisions as well as the automatic transfer of teachers who had been cut because of shrinking enrollment, the closing of large schools or the elimination of particular programs. At the time, Chancellor Joel I. Klein said he would rather absorb the cost of the teachers in the reserve pool than saddle principals with teachers they did not want.

Under the contract, teachers whose positions have been eliminated from one school and cannot find another to hire them, or who simply do not look for a new job, are assigned to schools to fill in as substitute teachers or temporary replacements. They collect full teacher salary and benefits.

Teachers at those schools are required to show up every day at regular school hours and are available for principals to use as substitutes, but the principals are not required to do so. Officials at the Education Department said they did not track how often the principals used the assigned substitutes, or whether they did at all.

Since 2006, when the contract took effect, more than 600 teachers have been placed in the reserve after failing to find new positions, according to the report by the New Teacher Project, which recruits and trains teachers for school systems across the country, including New York City. The report found that nearly half the reserve teachers had not applied for any vacancies through the city’s new online job posting system.

Timothy Daly, the president of the New Teacher Project and the lead author of the report, called the elimination of automatic transfers a resounding success that enjoyed widespread support among teachers who chose to switch schools. But he said the payments to the reserve pool were a flaw in the system.

“I don’t think anybody thinks that the system can keep paying for this in the long term,” he said. “It would undermine all the good stuff that is happening.”

The report drew praise from city officials. But Randi Weingarten, the president of the United Federation of Teachers, dismissed it, calling the New Teacher Project a “wholly owned subsidiary” of the Education Department.

The New Teacher Project runs the city’s Teaching Fellows program under a $4 million contract that expires in 2010. It also has relationships with other cities and has studied staff systems in several districts, including Portland, Ore., Milwaukee and Chicago.

“The most repulsive part of this report is that the D.O.E. is abdicating its responsibility to help the teachers who, through no fault of their own, have lost their positions,” Ms. Weingarten added. “It’s the quintessential blame-the-victim strategy.”

In the past, Mr. Klein has suggested that most teachers in the reserve pool are so undesirable that no principal would hire them or that they simply do not try to find a job. The report said reserve teachers who had not found a permanent place were six times as likely as other teachers to have received an unsatisfactory rating sometime in their careers, although that rating had nothing to do with why their prior jobs had been eliminated.

More than 90 percent of the roughly 2,700 teachers whose positions were cut in 2006 found jobs at other schools within several months, the report said.

“This shows how well the open-market system has worked,” said Dan Weisberg, the schools’ chief executive for labor policy. “We’re able to retain more talented teachers, and principals are extremely happy to be choosing their own teams.”

The report said veteran teachers were not “inherently disadvantaged” in finding new spots. But recently the union filed a lawsuit accusing the schools of age discrimination, pointing to the new policy, coupled with a new system that makes veteran teachers more costly for principals to hire.

When the teachers’ contract was revised in 2005, many veterans of the school system, including union officials, warned that it would be extremely difficult to place teachers in new assignments. Ms. Weingarten said Monday that those fears had come true.

She said Mr. Klein had broken apart the structures that once efficiently reassigned teachers. Local district offices that could balance the changing needs of different schools no longer exist, and principals in many cases are effectively operating on their own, as chief executives of their schools, she said.

During a conference call with reporters, Ms. Weingarten had four teachers in the reserve at Evander Childs High School in the Bronx speak of their experiences. Each said they had applied for several jobs, though not all had used the new online system.

The report comes as the city and the union are preparing to battle further over school budget cuts. In recent weeks, the relationship between Ms. Weingarten and Mr. Klein has soured even more as they have increasingly clashed over the cuts as well as teacher tenure rules. The teachers’ contract is scheduled to expire in October next year, on the eve of the mayoral election — making it unlikely that a deal will be struck with the Bloomberg administration.

“The danger here is that at some point these excess teachers will be forced into vacancies and into schools,” Mr. Weisberg said. “There’s no question what’s the most efficient thing to do. Obviously it’s very tempting, but it would be an awful thing for kids.”

Also on Monday, the union released an analysis suggesting that the city had misspent some of the $152.7 million in new state money meant to lower class sizes.

The analysis found that 48.5 percent of 390 elementary and middle schools that received state class size reduction money did not lower class sizes, and that the average class size at more than a third of the schools had increased over the past year.

William C. Thompson Jr., the city comptroller and likely mayoral candidate, said he would conduct an audit to determine where the money had been spent. The state also is planning to monitor the spending.

Elissa Gootman contributed reporting.

Mutual Benefits report

April 30, 2008
Idle Teachers, Wasted Money

New York City and its teachers’ union deserve praise for abandoning a rule that once guaranteed senior teachers the right to switch schools whenever they wanted by bumping younger teachers out of their jobs. The new system, which allows principals to refuse teachers that they do not want, has put an end to the perpetual transfer dance.

But it has also created a new set of very costly problems that the city needs to solve very soon. Those problems surfaced this week in a report by a New York research group known as The New Teacher Project, which estimates that the city has been paying $81 million over two years in salaries and benefits for teachers who have not been able to find permanent jobs.

Under the new free-market system, teachers who lose their jobs because of budget cuts, program curtailments or school closings are supposed to go into a reserve pool for a short time before they are hired elsewhere in the system. An overwhelming majority of more than 2,700 teachers sent into the pool in 2006 did just that.

But according to the study, 235 of the teachers who entered the pool in the summer of 2006 still had not found permanent teaching jobs by December 2007.

The reserves are required to show up at school hours and are available for use as substitutes. But no one really knows how reserves are being used or what they are actually doing.

The city, which seemed content to ignore this issue until the budget picture turned grim, needs to focus on this group much more closely. It needs to make sure that the pool members are actually looking for work. Beyond that, it needs to make sure that teachers are not being discriminated against by age or because they once worked at schools that were closed. If that becomes the case, the city could find it difficult to staff struggling schools that are candidates for closure.

The union disputes the report’s claim that the reserve teachers are much more likely to have had negative job ratings than teachers in general. But it is surely the case that some teachers in the pool will never find permanent jobs within the system. The city and the union need to explore new avenues for easing those teachers out of the system. Given the costs, this issue should be high on the agenda in the coming contract talks.

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