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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Absent Teacher Reserves (ATRs) Become a NYC Budget Battle Issue

Teachers Union Fights Effort To Stop Paying Reserve Pool
BY ELIZABETH GREEN - Staff Reporter of the Sun
May 5, 2008

Facing pressure to grant the city authority to stop paying teachers in the so-called Absent Teacher Reserve, teachers whom school officials say "either can't or won't get a job" but are still on the city's payroll, the United Federation of Teachers is fighting back.

In a data analysis released to The New York Sun yesterday, the union challenged the notion that teachers in the reserve pool do not hold actual jobs. Nearly one-third of teachers in the pool, or 194 of an estimated 665, are not idly waiting for work but are rather teaching full courseloads, according to the analysis, which union officials said was compiled from a combination of central labor records available to the union and anecdotal reports from schools.

The analysis also disputes an estimate, published in a report last week and endorsed by city school officials, that the reserve pool has cost the city $81 million over the last two years.

According to the union's analysis, when factoring for the money reserve pool members save in covering full courseloads and substitute teaching, their cost is $18.7 million annually.

The union president, Randi Weingarten, is also reaching out to members of the reserve pool with a promise to reject any change in the contract that would dent a "rock-solid job security clause" for ATR members.

"I wanted to personally reassure you that the UFT will not reopen the contract to negotiate any change in the terms and conditions of your employment," Ms. Weingarten wrote in a letter to reserve pool members on Friday (see below - Ed.).

The hard line makes it extremely unlikely that the Bloomberg administration will be able to negotiate the deal it would like to cut on the Absent Teacher Reserve question.

For seven months, the administration has been holding private meetings with the union seeking some way to either fire or cut the pay of members of the pool. Such a change would be historic in city schools long ruled by union efforts to create air-tight job security. The meetings all ended in stalemate.

Hopes that Ms. Weingarten might relent seemed to rise with last week's report by the New Teacher Project, a nonprofit group that does some contracting work with the city.

The report found that reserve teachers who remained in the pool without finding a job were more likely to have been rated "unsatisfactory" and less likely to have actively sought a job. To cut the cost of the pool, it suggested the city create incentives for members to leave it, such as a threatened pay cut if they stayed for 12 months.

The union analysis disputes the report's characterization of reserve teachers. It charges that ATR status, rather than suggesting poor quality or a lack of motivation, has actually become an accounting trick. Because ATR members' pay and benefits are covered by central administration, not individual school budgets, using them as full-time teachers is a way for principals to add staff without losing money, the union says.

One ATR member, John Murray, a 29-year veteran of the school system, said he was substituting last semester but now teaches art history at Stuyvesant High School full-time, drawing on a recent sabbatical he used to study the subject at the American University of Rome.

The UFT's list of schools using ATR members to teach full-time loads includes several with multiple teachers who are ATR members, such as Tilden High School in Brooklyn, where the union says 14 full-time teachers are actually members of the ATR.

Told about the union's analysis yesterday, Department of Education officials dismissed it.

"I believe this is a red herring of the first order," Deputy Chancellor Christopher Cerf said. "I believe there is no possibility that her number is accurate."

The president of the New Teacher Project, Timothy Daly, said he knew of no way to collect data on precisely what ATR members are doing inside schools.

"Why didn't I hear about this before now if this is a widespread problem?" Mr. Daly said.

Mr. Cerf said the city still faces a troubling question: how to handle the significant number of teachers who are guaranteed essentially lifetime employment by the teachers contract but "either won't get a job or can't get a job."

It's Mayor Vs. Teachers, Round II
BY ELIZABETH GREEN - Staff Reporter of the Sun
April 29, 2008

Mayor Bloomberg (pictured at right) today will move to reopen contract negotiations with the city teachers union, a move sure to ignite a full-scale battle between Mr. Bloomberg and the union's powerful president, Randi Weingarten.

What the administration will ask Ms. Weingarten to do would be unprecedented, a top official said: It wants to have the authority to remove teachers from the city payroll if they remain in the system, but without an actual job, for 12 months.

The push comes in response to a recommendation being released today in a report by a national nonprofit, the New Teacher Project. The report describes a situation it says is "untenable."

Under a contract negotiated in 2005, teachers who have been removed from their schools, or "excessed," remain on the city payroll but are not guaranteed a new job placement. According to the new report, that provision has created a group of more than 600 teachers, known as the "Absent Teacher Reserve," who are receiving regular salary payments and health benefits without actually teaching in a classroom — at a cost projected to reach $81 million by the end of the school year.

The report calls the costs "staggering," noting they will only snowball over time if no change is made.

Indeed, both the city teachers union and the Department of Education say the escalating cost presented by the unplaced teachers is a serious problem that must be resolved. What the two sides dispute is how to solve it.

While the union has suggested the Department of Education make efforts on its own to place teachers who do not have jobs, the city has staunchly opposed that.

The new hiring process was meant to introduce "open market" principles to a system that had been in many ways centrally directed. Before, principals were forced to accept teachers handed to them by the central administration, and novice teachers were bumped from jobs by any senior teachers who wanted them. The new process gives principals more freedom, letting them interview candidates and review resumes to make their decisions.

School officials say that any return to such centralized personnel directives would eliminate important progress that has helped principals and teachers negotiate better matches.

In an interview yesterday, the city Department of Education's director of labor policy, Daniel Weisberg, said that returning to such a system would be a "tragedy."

Meanwhile, the union has stood against the Department of Education's suggestion that teachers sitting in reserves for a long stretch be fired, an idea that city officials first proposed during contract negotiations in 2005.

The union filed a lawsuit against the city three weeks ago alleging that the new arrangement discriminates against older teachers, who it says are disproportionately left without jobs. Ms. Weingarten has suggested that the Department of Education could save money by using Absent Teacher Reserve teachers to fill vacancies, rather than hiring new teachers.

The New Teacher Project inserted itself into the debate earlier this year, after making an extensive study of the new hiring system.

Drawing on city data it collected, the nonprofit came up with a proposal it felt would cut through the political stalemate: The city should not fire teachers after 12 months of not being placed, but rather put them on an unpaid leave of absence that would end if the teacher found a new job.

The report also disputes the UFT's characterization that older teachers are being discriminated against, finding that excessed teachers with long experience were as likely to be hired as teachers with little experience.

The New Teacher Project first took its unpaid-leave proposal to the UFT five months ago, and then served as a mediator in negotiations between the union and the Department of Education to discuss the idea, its president, Timothy Daly, said yesterday.

But Mr. Daly said that when talks ended with only the Department of Education signing on and the union refusing, the New Teacher Project decided to take its findings public. He said the decision was a "last resort."

"Our feeling is that this is an issue that affects everybody that sends their child to a New York City public school, and it affects everybody who works in New York City public school," Mr. Daly said. "It was important to make those facts public."

The city is already rushing to show its support for The New Teacher Project idea, but the UFT is as quickly opposing it.

In a conference call with reporters yesterday afternoon, Ms. Weingarten dismissed the report as "slanted and ill-considered and factually inaccurate."

She also described the idea as "terrible education policy," saying it would create a disincentive to work at a struggling school at risk of being shut down, an outcome that leaves teachers excessed to the Absent Teacher Reserve. "It basically says, don't come to schools that have challenging students, because if a school closes, you will be fired," Ms. Weingarten said.

She invited four teachers who were excessed from their jobs at the old Evander Childs High School, a large complex that is being shut down and replaced by new small schools, to come to the UFT and speak to reporters in a late-afternoon conference call. All four of the teachers said they desperately want to work but have not been able to find jobs. They said they suspect their age is a factor.

"It's an insult," a 21-year veteran social studies teacher, Michael Miller, said. "We want to work. We want to teach."

Once in the Absent Teacher Reserve, teachers serve as substitute teachers. The teachers participating in the UFT conference call said that when they have no substitute jobs they trek to hotels to attend city-run job fairs or sit in the library of their old school building, applying to jobs online and chatting about teaching.

Mr. Daly said he thinks eventually the stalemate will end and his group's proposal will be implemented.

He said that the New Teacher Project supports a proposal by the UFT to end a financial situation that gives principals an incentive to hire novice teachers over senior teachers by making senior teachers more expensive.

He said he believes the union will ultimately also give in to his group's proposal.

"At the end of the day, the UFT gets angry at these things, but I think they want what's best for the profession," he said.


April 29, 2008 -- Teachers who can't find positions after they've been cut from closing schools are becoming a huge economic burden, according to a report.

Changes to the 2005 teachers' contract created nearly 700 substitutes who receive full pay. That agreement will have cost the city $81 million by June, the New Teacher Project report said.

The report also found that substitutes, known as the Absent Teacher Reserve, are less active in seeking jobs and more likely to have been rated poorly.

The report calls for giving nontenured teachers in the ATR three months and tenured teachers one year before they're put on unpaid leave.

UFT President Randi Weingarten said she had warned school officials that if they gave up the power to place teachers into open positions, the ATR pool would grow indefinitely.

"I am so enraged that three years later, they would once again attempt to lay people off," she said.

April 29, 2008
Study Finds New School Staffing Policies Benefit New York City Teachers, Urges Schools and Teachers Union to Address Costly Problem of Salaried Teachers Who Cannot Find Jobs

By June, Schools Expected to Pay $81 Million in Salary and Benefits for Small Percentage of Teachers Who Have Not Found Full-Time Positions Despite Months of Searching

The New Teacher Project

NEW YORK, NY—According to a new policy brief by The New Teacher Project, a national non-profit organization, school staffing policy reforms adopted by New York City in 2005 have given teachers and schools better choices and more flexibility in the teacher hiring process. However, in honoring the will of teachers and principals in all hiring decisions, the new staffing system has also created a pressing new problem: the emergence of a small pool of teachers—mostly tenured—who cannot find jobs in new schools many months after losing their previous positions. Under the current contract, these teachers continue receiving full salary and benefits even if they never secure another full-time position, at a cost projected to reach $81 million by June 2008. Troublingly, many appear to have difficulty finding positions because of a lack of engagement in the job-search process or a history of poor performance.

The current policy does not effectively address what to do with teachers in this situation. The New Teacher Project calls for a reasonable solution to this dilemma that respects the needs and service of teachers as well as the integrity of the new staffing policies and the real resource limitations of the city’s schools.

Mutual Benefits: New York City’s Shift to Mutual Consent in Teacher Hiring” is the fourth in an ongoing series of studies of urban school staffing issues by The New Teacher Project (TNTP). In this analysis, TNTP focuses on staffing policy changes implemented after the ratification of the 2005 teachers contract between the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) and United Federation of Teachers (UFT). This contract replaced rigid staffing rules that often gave teachers and principals little or no input over teacher placements with a more open policy that required the “mutual consent” of both teachers and principals in all hiring decisions.

“Mutual Benefits” analyzes 18 months of data on the job-search and hiring patterns of “transfer teachers” (those voluntarily seeking positions in new schools) and “excessed teachers” (those who lose their positions due to budget cuts, enrollment changes or school closings). It finds that the mutual consent-based staffing system has yielded positive results for the vast majority of teachers. Specifically, the study finds that the system has:

* Earned strong teacher support: Mutual consent policies prioritize school fit and teacher and principal choice in the staffing process. In a 2007 survey, 87 percent of transfer teachers and 82 percent of excessed teachers agreed that it was important whether the principal of the school where they sought a new position wanted them to work there.
* Successfully facilitated thousands of transfers: Over the course of two hiring seasons, the system enabled over 7,500 transfer and excessed teachers to secure jobs at new schools.
* Yielded satisfying placements: Nine out of ten transfer teachers and eight out of ten excessed teachers described their new mutual consent positions as satisfying.
* Resulted in positions that teachers plan to keep: Just 9 percent of teachers who transferred between schools in 2007 reported that they were considering transferring again this year.
* Provided fair and equal access to vacancies: The new policy showed no evidence of disadvantaging more senior teachers, teachers from closing schools, or excessed teachers, all of whom were hired by schools at rates similar to those for other teachers.
* Not disadvantaged high-poverty schools: In addition to giving schools greater choice in teacher hiring, the system has not spurred an exodus of teachers from high-poverty schools.

“The evidence tells us overwhelmingly that New York City’s mutual consent-based staffing policies are working well,” said Timothy Daly, a co-author of the study and president of The New Teacher Project. “What’s surprising is that so many districts stick with more restrictive staffing policies despite the fact that teachers like those in New York City have so strongly embraced this more open approach.”

“Mutual Benefits” shows that the ramifications of the mutual consent system were especially dramatic for the more than 4,100 teachers excessed in 2006 and 2007. Under the new contract, excessed teachers were no longer centrally assigned to positions, as they often had been in years past. Instead, they interviewed with principals for jobs like all other teachers. The vast majority of excessed teachers were hired by principals for mutually consensual positions at new schools; unfortunately, a relatively small subset of excessed teachers appears unable or unwilling to find new positions.

The study documents the characteristics and job search patterns of the 235 teachers excessed in summer 2006—9 percent of the 2,742 teachers excessed that year—who despite widespread job opportunities and significant job search support still had not secured new positions as of December 2007 (a year and a half later). The data indicate several trends in the characteristics and job-search patterns of this subset of teachers:

* They remained unselected despite thousands of vacancies: Over 14,000 teaching positions were filled during the period when these 235 teachers did not find jobs.
* They remained unselected though large numbers of their excessed colleagues found positions: Over 1,000 teachers excessed in 2006 found mutual consent positions, across all license areas and seniority levels (approximately 1,000 more were reabsorbed by their former schools).
* They were generally less active in their job searches than other excessed teachers: Nearly half did not apply to even one vacancy through the city’s online job posting system. Even more declined to participate in district job fairs or job search workshops.
* They were more likely to have a documented history of poor performance: By September 2007, unselected excessed teachers from 2006 were six times as likely to have received a prior “Unsatisfactory” rating as other New York City teachers.
* They were not inherently disadvantaged by the mutual consent system: Data suggest that a teacher’s placement prospects were not negatively influenced in any significant way by characteristics such as seniority or having come from a closing school.

Making matters worse, the pool of unselected teachers grew in 2007, when over 1,400 teachers were newly excessed. Of these 2007 excessed teachers, 430 still had not found positions as of December 2007—six months into their job search. Initial data suggest that these 430 unselected teachers are similar to the 2006 group in their characteristics and hiring patterns.

The costs of this policy structure are considerable and will only grow annually, as more teachers enter the reserve pool. By the end of the current school year, the NYCDOE will have paid an estimated $81 million in salary and benefits to the more than 600 teachers excessed in 2006 and 2007 who remain unselected. In addition, some teachers—at least 30 so far, and potentially 51 more by June—have been granted tenure while serving in the reserve pool, affording them even greater job security and benefits for what could be decades of service, even if they never find a full-time position—indeed, even if they never apply for another position.

Ariela Rozman, CEO of The New Teacher Project, urged the New York City schools and the United Federation of Teachers to put aside politics in the interest of finding a reasonable solution. “Teachers are the bedrock of our schools, and New York City must continue to do everything possible to attract and retain the best,” said Ms. Rozman. “Teachers who are excessed deserve ample time and support in finding new jobs, but unlimited time at full salary is not a reasonable or sustainable policy. Under the current policy, it is not clear that teachers have an incentive to engage in an aggressive job search. Finding a solution requires flexibility and realism from both the NYCDOE and the UFT.”

A return to forced teacher placement, while seemingly a simple solution from a logistical and fiscal standpoint, would corrode the effective staffing process now in place, according to the study. More worrisome, a return to slotting would mean that unselected teachers would likely be placed disproportionately into hard-to-staff schools with high turnover rates. Instead, ”Mutual Benefits” suggests that unselected excessed teachers be placed on unpaid leave after a reasonable period of time in the reserve pool, with the ability to return to teaching at their previous salary level if they are able to secure a full-time position within a certain number of years.

“It is critical that any new policies ensure that excessed teachers are treated with respect and fairness,” said TNTP’s Rachel Grainger, a co-author of the brief. “It is also vitally important that all teachers engage actively in the job search process. The NYCDOE and UFT should work together to find a fair and reasonable way forward. Sustaining an open and efficient school staffing system is clearly in the interest of teachers and principals, but ultimately it is most important to students, whose education depends so much on who stands at the front of their classrooms.”

About The New Teacher Project

The New Teacher Project (TNTP) is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing the number of outstanding individuals who become public school teachers and to creating environments for all educators that maximize their impact on student achievement. TNTP has published two major studies on teacher hiring and school staffing in urban areas: Missed Opportunities (2003) and Unintended Consequences (2005). The organization has also played a critical role in bringing high-quality teachers to urban classrooms, having worked with more than 200 school districts and trained or hired approximately 28,000 teachers since its inception in 1997.

As part of its ongoing series of studies of urban school staffing policies, The New Teacher Project has previously examined district staffing procedures in Chicago, IL; Portland, OR; and Milwaukee, WI. In these studies, TNTP called for an enhanced teacher voice in school-based hiring, early hiring timelines to ensure that urban districts compete for top talent, and substantial staffing supports for schools serving low-income students and families. These analyses are available at:

TNTP has partnered with the New York City Department of Education on a number of educational initiatives, such as the New York City Teaching Fellows program. Currently, more than 8,000 Teaching Fellows who were recruited, selected and trained by TNTP are teaching in classrooms across New York City. Nearly all of these teachers are active UFT members. In some cases, they serve as chapter leaders or in other roles within the union.

The NYCDOE also partnered with The New Teacher Project to launch and manage an Internal Hiring Support Center to maximize placement opportunities for excessed teachers. This Center operated from May through October during the 2006 and 2007 hiring seasons. Funding for the Internal Hiring Support Center was raised by The New Teacher Project in 2006. In 2007, the NYCDOE covered the majority of its costs.

City Mulls Next Step on $81 Million Nonteaching Teachers
BY ELIZABETH GREEN - Staff Reporter of the Sun
April 30, 2008

The Bloomberg administration is saying it has not reached a decision on how to proceed in the wake of a report recommending the city remove from its payroll teachers who do not hold actual jobs.

The report, released by a nonprofit, the New Teacher Project, found that a provision in the 2005 teachers contract has had the effect of creating a group of more than 600 teachers who are on the city payroll but do not hold actual jobs in the school system. The unplaced-but-paid teachers, known as the Absent Teacher Reserve, will cost the city $81 million by the end of this school year, the report said.

On the eve of the report's release Monday, the Department of Education's director of labor policy, Daniel Weisberg, said he wanted to seek an agreement with the teachers union that would allow the city to follow the New Teacher Project's recommendation and remove such teachers from the city payroll if they remained unemployed for 12 months.

In the past, the city and the teachers union have reached so-called midcontract agreements, a method to make changes to the way teachers are paid and treated without opening up the full contract for collective bargaining.

Mr. Weisberg indicated this is the path the Department of Education aims to follow to address the Absent Teacher Reserve issue.

"Whether we open a new contract negotiation generally, that's up to the mayor and Jim Hanley, the mayor's labor commissioner," Mr. Weisberg said. "What I'm talking about is whether we negotiate over this particular issue."

He added: "Our hope is that the next step is that the parties would sit down and try to come to a resolution."

The mayor's office — which has final authority over any negotiation, even outside the collective-bargaining framework — is saying that, while it also supports the conclusions of the New Teacher Project report, it will not go as far as to endorse a next step.

"The New Teacher Project issued a report, the conclusion of which the city agrees with," a spokesman for the mayor, Jason Post, said. "No decision has been made about the implementation of any recommendations."

Mr. Post did name one possible way the city could implement the report's conclusions: The city could make an agreement outside the regular contract, of the sort Mr. Weisberg suggested.

Mr. Post said a final decision has not yet been made on whether to take that step.

At a press availability yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg said the growing number of teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve is a problem that he expects will only worsen in the future, following new state legislation banning the use of test scores in decisions about whether to grant tenure.

"If you think this is a problem today, based on the action of the Legislature and legislation signed by the governor, the number of teachers who will be in this kind of a situation will probably grow dramatically, because the Legislature in their infinite wisdom passed a law saying we couldn't look at teacher competency to decide whether to give them tenure," Mr. Bloomberg said.

Report Critical Of City Teacher Practices
April 29, 2008

A report released Tuesday found that the city is paying more than $80 million to help teachers who do not have permanent jobs.

The money comes from a so-called reserve pool, which came out of the city's contract with the teacher's union.

The money assists teachers whose positions have been eliminated, but who have yet to secure a position at another school. Under the city's contract, these teachers are now assigned as substitute teachers or temporary replacements.

The report was conducted by the New Teacher Project - a group that recruits and trains teachers for schools across the country.

"Each year we put many more people into [the reserve pool]. So the crunch is actually a long-term cost," said Timothy Daly of the New Teacher Project.

The report recommends that after a certain time in the pool, teachers should go on unpaid leave until they get hired permanently.

Michael Miller, a teacher formerly employed by the former Evander Childs High School, is in the reserve pool.

"I've invested 21 years of my life in this school system. Have two master’s degrees. I love teaching and it’s very frustrating to come to work everyday and not have classes to teach," said Miller.

Teachers' union officials said the reserve pool is necessary, and that they could place every teacher right away if it wanted to.

"The worst fabrication in this report is when they say that senior teachers, experienced teachers, are not trying to get placed when their schools are closed or redesigned," said United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.

Weingarten called the New Teacher Project a "wholly owned subsidiary" of the Department of Education and pointed to a number of teachers who were trying to get new jobs, but were simply shut out by the system.

Dan Weisberg, the schools' hiring chief, said nothing prevents the teachers in the reserve pool from getting a job - save the principals' hiring power - a power instituted by Schools Chancellor Joel Klein.

"Principals are going to have the final say and select their own teams," said Klein. "And that's something that [Klein's] talked about for years so that principals have that discretion."

The teachers' union blasted this report as a conflict of interest, saying Daly's group places new teachers in schools, so it has a vested interest in making sure veteran teachers do not get jobs.

"This is a guy who should never be working in education. He's a wholly-owned subsidiary of the board of education," said Weingarten.

Daly denies there being any conflict of interest.

"Our policy work is completely independent and our recommendations are independent," said Daly. "In doing this report, we receive no money for the writing or publication."

NYC paying out-of-work teachers $81 Million
April 29, 2008 7:37 AM

NEW YORK (AP) -- New York City is paying $81 million over two years in salaries and benefits for teachers who have been laid off by school closings and have yet to be hired by another school.

The teachers are part of the so-called reserve pool, which is an outgrowth of the city's contract with the teachers' union.

The reserve pool was a trade off in contract talks to end seniority rights as well as the automatic transfer of teachers who had been cut because of shrinking enrollment.

At the time, Chancellor Joel 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 and cannot find another job, are assigned as substitute teachers or temporary replacements. They collect full teacher salary and benefits.

Since 2006 contract, more than 600 teachers have been placed in the reserve after failing to find new positions, according to the New Teacher Project, which recruits and trains teachers for school systems.

Union President Randi Weingarten says the Teachers Project is an excuse to blame teachers who have lost their jobs.

Send in the Reserves!
April 29, 2008
|This article was published in the May 5, 2008, edition of The New York Observer.

When the city and the United Federation of Teachers agreed on a new contract in 2005 the city agreed to establish a reserve pool of teachers whose jobs had been eliminated and who were unable to find work in another school. In the past, teachers with seniority were given first dibs on job vacancies, but the new contract ended that practice.

According to a report compiled by a teacher-training group called the New Teacher Project, the city will spend $81 million over two years to pay salaries and benefits for teachers in the reserve pool. The teachers show up for work at a school every day, but they don’t have classroom jobs. This scenario was not unexpected; Schools Chancellor Joel Klein supported the notion of a reserve pool of teachers because he did not wish to force teachers on individual principals. It was the price the city agreed to pay in exchange for the elimination of seniority hiring and transfer rights.

It’s clear, however, that the reserve pool has become an expensive boondoggle. Some 600 teachers, of the approximately 2,700 whose jobs were eliminated since 2006, were put into the reserve pool. They say that they have been unable to find other jobs in the massive city school system, but the report by the New Teacher Project found that about half of the reserves had not applied to job vacancies posted online. This is outrageous. It’s clear that while there are surely many talented teachers who are only in the reserve pool because of school closings, there are others who are making little or no effort to find new positions, either because they are not motivated to do so, or because they lack the skills to be hired on their own merits.

Not unexpectedly, the UFT’s president, Randi Weingarten, called the report “repulsive.” The overheated reaction suggests not that the report was flawed, but that the union is angry that somebody noticed that a few hundred teachers are drawing salaries and benefits without actually having to teach. Ms. Weingarten also assailed the report’s authors, claiming that the New Teacher Project is in the pocket of the Department of Education. (The Project, a national organization, received a $4 million contract from the department to train teachers.) Ms. Weingarten has chosen to attack the messenger rather than the message, the preferred strategy of those who have no other line of defense.

What’s astonishing is that the reserve corps apparently has not been tapped to help fill daily gaps in the classroom when teachers call in sick. Principals can, if they choose, use a reserve rather than call on a substitute to fill in for an ill or absent teacher. But they are not obliged to do so. Why not? Why not demand that principals utilize the reserve pool as their substitute teachers of first resort? It makes complete sense, which may explain why the practice has yet to be mandated.

If taxpayers are going to pay $81 million to support the reserve corps, they should get some service for that money. Surely the reserves will be delighted to find themselves in classrooms rather than hanging around the teachers’ room, waiting for a job offer. And if they’re not, they have no right to be on the city payroll.

Open letter from the UFT president to ATRs
May 2, 2008 1:53 PM

Dear Colleague,

I wanted to personally reassure you that the UFT will not reopen the contract to negotiate any change in the terms and conditions of your employment. We have a rock-solid job security clause in our contract that does not allow the Department of Education to lay off any of our members, particularly ATRs.

We know you want to teach and have had obstacles hurled in your way. As you recall from the meetings and correspondences since last summer, we have tried to get the DOE to be more respectful of ATRs and provide full-time placements to those of you that want them.

That wasn’t the DOE’s agenda. Having failed to achieve one of its principal objectives in the 2005 and 2006 contracts and in the discussions throughout this school year – namely laying off excessed teachers – the DOE has enlisted a non-profit organization with millions of dollars in DOE contracts to issue a report that recommends putting tenured teachers on unpaid leave if they have not found a new assignment after serving 12 months as an ATR.

I told the DOE as clearly and unequivocally as possible that I would never agree to give it the right to fire or put on unpaid leave experienced teachers who, through no fault of their own, were excessed from their teaching jobs and have been unable to find new positions.

As you know better than I, the ATR situation is a manufactured crisis. The DOE created it and fuels it at every turn for its own political purposes.

The 2005 contract created a personnel choice system in which teachers would be able to choose schools and schools would be able to choose teachers. Bumping and the limited seniority transfer system were eliminated, and an open market transfer system free of any restrictions and a rock-solid job security clause were instituted instead. The open-market system has been a boon to thousands of members. More than 7,000 teachers have been able to secure transfers on the open market over the past two school years, a significant increase over the 431 transfers in 2005.

But the DOE has chosen NOT to treat ATRs fairly. As the New Teacher Project report admits, the school system has shifted the burden of finding a job to teachers instead of accepting responsibility for placing the teachers. Since September 2007 the DOE has created perverse incentives: a financial disincentive for schools to place ATRs in vacancies and a financial incentive for schools to keep ATRs.

Since 2005, the DOE has turned a deaf ear to every proposal we have made to resolve both the financial issues as well as the desires of teachers in the ATR pool to teach.

The 2005 contract gives the school system the authority to place teachers in vacancies unless the principal denies the placement, but the DOE has never exercised its contractual obligation and we have now grieved their failure to do so.

When Chancellor Klein created the weighted student funding system last year, we saw that it would create a financial disincentive for principals to hire senior teachers, which would make it even more difficult to place ATRs. That was why we negotiated the April 2007 hold harmless agreement that changed some of the funding formulas. Since we heard rumors from principals that they weren’t hiring ATRs because they cost too much, we made the proposal in September that the DOE charge schools that hire ATRs as if they were new teachers and make up centrally the difference in salary costs. Again, the DOE refused.

In the 2006 contract we agreed to do a buyout, but the DOE never followed up to negotiate the details.

Five weeks ago, we finally gave up negotiating with the DOE and blew the whistle on this waste of money and talent at a City Council hearing covered in the New York Teacher. Three weeks ago, we filed an age discrimination suit because we saw that many of you were not being placed because of their age and salaries.

The bottom line is we have taken the school system on in the budget fight to ensure that it keeps its promises to children and to maintain fairness for all our members, whether they are about to be considered for tenure or they are ATRS because they have been excessed. The more pitched this battle gets, the more the school system will try to use whatever resources are at its disposal to win, rather than to resolve both the budget and personnel issues. And this battle is pitched because we won job security for all our members in 2005, so please be assured that it is a rock-solid guarantee and we will still work, despite the heated rhetoric, to get those of you who want a real opportunity to teach that opportunity.


Randi Weingarten

UFT faults Klein for creating job barriers for ATRs
Apr 29, 2008 10:36 AM

UFT President Randi Weingarten denounced a report issued on April 28 by the New Teacher Project, a DOE contractor, which blames educators filling day-to-day vacancies for being unable to find new permanent teaching positions and recommends firing them after one year.

Statement by UFT President Randi Weingarten:

Today one of the Department of Education’s wholly-owned subsidiaries issued a report blaming experienced teachers who, through no fault of their own, were excessed from their teaching jobs and also proposed that rather than asking the DOE to help place the excessed teachers that they be fired.

The New Teacher Project (TNTP) issued this report three weeks after the UFT filed an age discrimination complaint against the DOE for discriminating against older teachers by the introduction of a funding formula that creates a disincentive for schools to hire them.

This report also comes five weeks after I gave City Council testimony blowing the whistle on the DOE’s waste of tens of millions of dollars in the failure to help the teachers get full time assignments in schools where their talents would be better utilized than in their day-to-day substitute posts.

The report comes eight months after the UFT attempted in a series of negotiations to both assist teachers to get placements and to reduce the amount of money the DOE was spending on the ATR pool. Each time the union attended a negotiation session coming up with creative ideas to place ATRs, the DOE said all it wants is to have them fired.

This is not new. This proposal made today is virtually identical to the proposal this same group made as part of DOE negotiations in the spring of 2005 asking that excess teachers be laid off.

Once the fact-finding panel rejected the DOE proposal, the union and the city agreed in 2005 to a choice placement system provided there was job security for everyone who through no fault of their own was not selected by principals. The union advised the DOE at that time in negotiations that if this structure were adopted there would be hundreds of people in an ATR pool, the very same problem the report complains about today.
TNTP met with us and the DOE earlier this year and we shared all of this info, none of which appears in their report. Instead, in a slanted and ill-considered and factually inaccurate way, they attempt three years later to get what they tried to get in 2005. That is why the UFT is denouncing the report.

The DOE is abrogating its responsibility to help these dedicated teachers find permanent jobs when they have lost positions through no fault of their own.

This is a disservice not only to these teachers who have devoted themselves to the profession but also to the children who would benefit from their talents. It’s a waste of skill and money. The city could save millions of dollars by employing the teachers in the ATR pool who are already being paid. Why recruit more teachers at additional costs when you have experienced teachers on salary who are ready and eager to work?

This is utter nonsense. These teachers have dedicated their lives to teaching because they love children and they want to continue teaching in schools they can consider their own. But no matter how hard they try to find permanent positions, the DOE does everything it can to make sure principals give preference to younger teachers.

Sadly, not only is this an out-and-out attempt at contract abrogation and a quintessential blame-the-victim strategy, but what TNTP proposes is terrible education policy. Everyone in education these days talks about how we get and keep experienced teachers in struggling schools. If this policy were ever implemented and a struggling school closed down, it would stop any effort to recruit and retain teachers at these high-needs schools because it says “Don’t come to schools that have challenging students because if the school closes you’ll be fired.”

Teaching Fellows are not included in the ATR pool:
Sunday, November 19, 2006
This Jar of Money Can Be Yours (Just Sign Here)

Each day I learn our contract is more complicated than I thought.

Readers of this blog know that Chancellor Klein hires hundreds of new teachers even as he relegates working teachers to the "Absent Teacher Reserve." Under the proposed new contract, he'll be able to offer them a severance package, even though none of them, to my knowledge, have been established as bad teachers.

But here's something you won't read in NY Teacher---those teachers who are part of the city's Teaching Fellows program are not receiving this offer. They're being threatened with termination, and expulsion from college coursework. As I can't provide a link, I'll share the letter one of the Fellows received:

Dear .....,

According to our records, at this time you are still in the Teacher Reserve without a regular, full-time assignment. I am writing to remind you that as per the Fellow Commitment Form that you signed, if you do not find a regular school-level teaching position outside of the Teacher Reserve by December 1 you will no longer remain in the Teaching Fellows program. As a result, you will no longer be licensed and you will be terminated from employment for failure to meet qualifications. Furthermore, you will not be able to continue university coursework after that date.

At this time, you should continue to seek a school-level teaching position. While our preference is for you to remain in your assigned region, you are permitted to seek interview opportunities and obtain a position anywhere in the city. The Placement Support office remains available to assist you with interviewing tips and can provide you feedback through a mock interview. If you would like assistance please contact Placement Support at 718.935.4586.

We must be in receipt of a signed School Commitment Form by 5:00 p.m. on December 1 in order for you to remain in the Fellowship and on payroll. If you have already secured a position, please fax the signed School Commitment Form as soon as possible to 718.935.4185.

I hope you will be successful in securing a position so that you can remain in the Fellowship.


Vicki Bernstein
Director of Alternative Certification

According to my source, the Fellows program guarantees its participants teaching positions if they complete the summer program. This is not the first time Klein's DoE has attempted to weasel out of a contract by simply ignoring its provisions. Can anyone help these teachers?

Can the Unity wonks still stand up and claim the new ATR program is better than the old UFT transfer plan?

Posted by NYC Educator at 7:17 AM

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