Monday, September 22, 2008

The "Cost" of ATR's- 3 articles today

Report: Absent Teacher Reserve Draining City of $74M in 2008

By ELIZABETH GREEN, Staff Reporter of the Sun | September 22, 2008

At a cost of $74 million to taxpayers, nearly 1,000 teachers will be on the city payroll this school year despite not holding full-time jobs in public schools, a report being released Monday projects.

That total is on top of an estimated $81 million the city spent in 2006 and 2007 combined on teachers who were not hired for full-time positions.

The report is the second attempt by the nonprofit that wrote it, the New Teacher Project, to draw attention to a deadlock between the United Federation of Teachers and the Department of Education on the question of what to do with the teachers creating the excess costs.

The teachers, part of what is known as the Absent Teacher Reserve, are on the payroll as a result of the 2005 teacher contract, which converted the public schools' hiring process for teachers into an open market, meaning both teachers and principals have to consent to every placement in a school. Previously, schools had been forced to hire the most senior teacher looking for a job.

Teachers move into the Absent Teacher Reserve if they are pushed out of their jobs, or "excessed," without being fired, and cannot find a new full-time position in the system.

Under the current contract, both tenured and untenured teachers receive full-time salary and benefits even if they remain in the reserve pool forever.

Some untenured teachers are also earning tenure — a designation that comes with extra job protections and benefits — while sitting in the reserve, sometimes after teaching in a classroom for less than a year.

As of last September, 30 teachers had become eligible for tenure while serving in the reserve, and 51 more in the reserve could become eligible for tenure this year, according to the report.

Some older teachers complain about being put in the reserve, saying the reason they cannot find placements is that they have higher salaries and therefore cost more to principals already under a budget crunch. (The department offers an incentive to hire senior teachers in their first year out of the reserve, but the incentive disappears after that.)

Both the teachers union and the Department of Education have said they would like to address the situation.

Hopes were raised that some kind of solution would be reached when the New Teacher Project released its first report in April, offering proposals such as placing a time limit on how long teachers can stay in the reserve and making senior and novice teachers effectively cost the same amount to principals. However, the president of the New Teacher Project, Timothy Daly, said he has no evidence that the union and the Department of Education have held meetings on the subject.

The sticking point may be the idea of a time limit, which would mean that teachers who cannot find positions would lose their salary and benefits.

A spokeswoman for the department, Melody Meyer, said the department supports adding a time limit that is "reasonable" but not "unreasonable," presumably meaning one that is not too long. The department listed a time limit of one year as a reasonable option.

The president of the teachers union, Randi Weingarten, said in a statement responding to the report that she supports evening the financial playing field between senior and junior teachers. She did not offer support for a time limit, and she also criticized the New Teacher Project as a "wholly owned subsidiary" of the Department of Education that is only pushing for novice teachers to be hired.

Mr. Daly acknowledged that his group holds contracts with the Department of Education, but said that the group's duties include not only recruiting new teachers but also advising senior ones.

Teachers in Absent Teacher Reserve cost New York City $74M - study


Sunday, September 21st 2008, 9:40 PM

The city will pay out-of-work teachers $74 million this year to fill in as overpaid subs, according to a controversial report due out Monday.

The teachers - about 1,395 of them who lost permanent jobs because their schools closed or a program shrank - fill in as substitutes as part of the Absent Teacher Reserve.

"The amount of money is too big to ignore," said Timothy Daly of the New Teacher Project, which did the study.

Most are paid directly by the Education Department, not by individual schools, giving principals little incentive to hire the in-limbo educators.

Many also are at the upper end of the pay scale - another potential knock against them when competing for jobs with less expensive newbies.

A similar report issued in April estimated the city would spend $81 million from 2006 through June 2008 on teachers without permanent assignments.

Daly wants the Education Department to put those in the reserve group who can't find a position within a year on unpaid leave.

Randi Weingarten, president of the United Federation of Teachers, said the report is biased because it was done by a group paid by the Education Department to recruit and train fresh, new teaching candidates.

A report in Sunday's Daily News found there are still 229 brand-new recruits with no classroom assignments.

"Instead of implementing a moratorium on new hires until most [of the Absent Teacher Reserve] are placed, the [Education Department] has exacerbated this situation by continuing to hire new educators from around the nation when there were no jobs for them," said Weingarten.

Teachers in the reserve group say they are being portrayed as incompetent, even though most lost their jobs through no fault of their own.

"They downsized my program," said LezAnne Edmonds, who is in the reserve group at Manhattan's Independence High School. "I don't have anything to do with being in this position."

An Education Department spokeswoman said it makes little sense "to pay teachers who for years are unable to find another position or unwilling to look for one."

"We hope the UFT will work with us to find a solution which ensures that every teacher on the excess list has a reasonable amount of time to find a new position," the spokeswoman said.

September 22, 2008
City Teacher Pay Practice Comes in for Fresh Criticism


New York City might have to pay teachers whose positions were eliminated in the last academic year and who have yet to find a permanent job at another city school more than $74 million to be substitutes or replacements, according to a report expected to be released on Monday by a nonprofit group.

A similar report released in April estimated that the city had already paid about $81 million to teachers whose positions were eliminated in the 2006 and 2007 academic years. Under the teachers’ union contract, teachers whose positions have been eliminated from one school and who cannot find another school to hire them or who do not look for a new job are assigned to fill in as substitute teachers or temporary replacements. They receive full teachers’ salaries and benefits.

The teachers are part of the so-called teacher-reserve pool, which was an outgrowth of an agreement between the city and the teachers’ union to end seniority rights in staffing decisions and to stop automatically transferring teachers who have been cut because of shrinking enrollment at some schools, the closing of large schools or the elimination of programs.

Chancellor Joel I. Klein has said that he would rather absorb the costs of the teachers in the reserve pool than force principals to accept teachers they did not want, based on seniority.

Timothy Daly, the president of the New Teacher Project, a nonprofit that recruits and trains new teachers, and the principal author of the report, said that the policy of not forcing principals to accept senior teachers should remain intact, but that immediate action was needed to prevent the city from spending millions of dollars on such teachers.

In 2008, 2,039 teachers were newly placed in the reserve pool, according to the report. The majority of them, 63 percent, found a new job at another school, were given a different job at their former school or quit, the report said. It also said that of the 1,400 teachers now in the pool, 637 have been without permanent jobs for at least a year.

“The data suggest that the number of excessed teachers without classroom positions will continue to increase annually,” the report said.

But Education Department officials said on Sunday that roughly 230 of those in the reserve pool were new teachers who were hired by the department, largely through programs to attract nontraditional teaching candidates, like Teach for America and the city’s Teaching Fellows program.

Randi Weingarten, the president of the United Federation of Teachers, issued a statement responding to the report, dismissing the New Teacher Project as a “wholly-owned subsidiary” of the Education Department. She said that more than 200 of the city’s newest teachers were still without a permanent placement.

The New Teacher Project runs the city’s Teaching Fellows program under a $4 million contract that expires in 2010.

“They might have pointed out how irresponsible it was for the Department of Education to bring thousands of novices into a teacher market where the supply already far outstripped the demand,” Ms. Weingarten said, suggesting that the department instead propose a moratorium on hiring new teachers, until all teachers in the pool are placed.

Although the current contract would not allow the city to unilaterally open up negotiations with the union, Melody Meyer, a spokeswoman for the Education Department, said that officials hoped that the union would “work with us to find a solution” to the reserve pool.

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