What has cost the DOE as much as ARIS in the last couple of years? Teachers who aren't working, according to a report being released today by the New Teacher Project, a non-profit organization that helps school districts find and train new teachers.
The report, titled "Mutual Benefits: New York City's Shift to Mutual Consent in Teacher Hiring," takes a look at the effects of the 2005 UFT-DOE contract, which ended the practice by which older teachers could "bump" younger teachers from their schools and instituted a system where teachers who are "excessed," or released from their positions at schools, continue to earn tenure and be paid while they apply for new positions — or not. The report concludes that the practice of "mutual consent" has resulted in teachers being happier with their positions but that the growing pool of excessed teachers is becoming a financial burden on the system. Half of the 600 teachers who were excessed in 2006 and early 2007 who did not find a new position did not apply for any jobs through the DOE's online hiring system, according to the report, to the tune of $81 million by the end of this school year.
Many of the report's findings are likely verifiable, but it's important to note that the New Teacher Project has an organizational interest in making sure there are positions for new teachers and funds free to pay them — it runs the city's Teaching Fellows program. Evaluated in this context, the report's central recommendation — that excessed teachers be removed from the payroll after a "reasonable period" and allowed "for a certain number of years" to be able to return to a teaching position at the same salary and seniority level — reads like opportunism, not thoughtful education policy. And it makes Mayor Bloomberg's use of the report as a reason to reopen contract negotiations with the UFT positively inexcusable; he is planning to seek permission to remove from city payroll teachers who have gone without a job for 12 months.
The Times notes that Chancellor Klein has characterized most teachers in the reserve pool as undesirable or unwilling to look for work. We don't know exactly how many of the non-working excessed teachers fit that bill. But we do know that with budget cuts making it financially stressful for schools to maintain experienced teaching staffs, principals must make hard choices to be able to afford to hire senior teachers. And with a cadre of first-year teachers always at the ready (thanks in part to the New Teacher Project), the incentives to make those choices are slim. That's why the UFT earlier this month filed an age discrimination lawsuit against the DOE. In times like this, senior teachers need more protections, not a new rule that removes them from the system so long as schools can get along without them.
And if you're worried about unqualified teachers keeping their jobs, don't be — the Teacher Performance Unit is on the job.