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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Absent Teacher's Reserve Agreement Reached


November 18, 2008

Department of Education AND United Federation of Teachers Reach Agreement on Absent Teacher Reserves (ATRs)
New Measures Create Financial Incentives To Hire ATRs

United Federation of Teachers (UFT) President Randi Weingarten and Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein today finalized an agreement designed to improve the placement processes and procedures for teachers and other UFT personnel in the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR). Teachers whose positions have been eliminated—for example, when a school closes—and who are not able to find regular positions are placed in the ATR pool and work as full-time substitutes. The agreement, which was approved unanimously by the UFT Executive Board on November 18, creates substantial financial incentives for schools to hire teachers, guidance counselors, social workers and attendance teachers from the ATR pool. In addition, Chancellor Klein will urge principals to fill vacancies with personnel from the ATR pool before considering other candidates. This agreement does not call for the forced placement of any personnel.

“This is a terrific agreement,” said UFT President Randi Weingarten. “These experienced and qualified people have essentially seen their careers put in a holding pattern due to student enrollment patterns or the closing of schools. They have been struggling to find permanent jobs in large part because schools have been opting for less experienced personnel at lower salaries. By eliminating the financial obstacles, we should see more ATRs being permanently placed, which will be good for children and save the school district money. This is an agreement worth trying, particularly with these troubling economic times.”

“Today’s agreement with the UFT creates incentives that encourage principals to voluntarily hire qualified teachers in the ATR pool to fill school vacancies, thereby reducing the cost to the City of maintaining excessed teachers on the payroll,” Chancellor Klein said. “This agreement is part of our very serious effort to minimize cuts to schools and classrooms during these hard economic times. At worst, if no additional teachers are hired from the ATR pool, it’s cost neutral. At best, if principals find qualified teachers in the ATR pool to fill vacancies in their schools, it could save us millions of dollars. And, importantly, it preserves principals’ right to choose the teachers in their schools. While we continue to believe that teachers in the ATR pool should not be permitted to stay on the payroll indefinitely, this agreement represents a needed step forward.”

Under the terms of the agreement, schools that hire one of the educators in the ATR pool after November 1 of each calendar year will receive two subsidies. The Department of Education (DOE) will pay the difference between the ATR’s actual salary and the salary of a starting teacher, and then, in subsequent years, will continue to pay the difference between the actual salary and the subsequent steps on the salary scale. This subsidy will terminate once the excessed employee has been in the position for eight years. The DOE will also give schools that hire an ATR an additional lump sum equal to half of a new hire’s salary.

Principals who are willing to hire ATRs but not permanently place them can instead hire ATRs on a provisional basis. In those cases, schools will pay the educators’ actual salaries. If a principal and ATR decide the ATR should be placed permanently, the school will receive the subsidies. If the ATR is not permanently placed, the ATR will return to the ATR pool at the end of the school year.

After one year, the DOE and UFT will evaluate whether this agreement is benefiting schools.

“I am pleased that the DOE and the UFT were able to work together and find common ground on this critical issue of reducing the number of unplaced excessed teachers,” Chancellor Klein said. “I expect principals will actively and in good faith first consider qualified candidates in the ATR pool when filling open positions.”

“I want to thank the ATRs who have continued to press this issue and all of the teachers who took part in the ‘Let Us Teach’ campaign,” said Weingarten. “By using the ATR pool to fill vacancies, millions of dollars can be saved and thousands of kids get the benefit of these great educators. This is a solution that works for everyone.”

Contact: David Cantor / Ann Forte (DOE) - 212-374-5141
Brian Gibbons / Ron Davis (UFT) - 212-598-9233

Section: New York > Printer-Friendly Version
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.

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."

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.

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