Money for nothing

Teachers Ignore Openings, by Barbara Martinez, Wall Street Journal, September 3, 2010

You might have thought that closing New York City’s infamous rubber rooms meant that our largest school system is no longer paying teachers to do nothing. You’d be wrong. Though disciplined teachers are now placed in administrative positions while their cases are sorted out, tenured teachers who lose their jobs because of downsizing are still guaranteed full pay and benefits—with no deadline by which they must find another job. The district and union reached an accord in 2008—that the district would encourage (and in 2009 require) principals to hire from the “reserve pool” (instead of new teachers), even offering to offset the cost of a higher-salaried tenured teacher over a newbie, but excessed teachers would never be forced on principals. But no deadline for pool time was ever set. Unsurprisingly, most of the 1,800 individuals in this position are taking full advantage. Fifty-nine percent of them have not even applied for a single job through the DOE recruitment site nor attended any DOE-sponsored job fairs, never mind that 1,200 positions are currently open. The Big Apple is the only city in the country that guarantees pay to tenured employees indefinitely; most, like Chicago, give excessed teachers one year to find another job. Needless to say, the annual $100 million this costs New York in salaries can hardly be afforded even in plush times. The union’s solution is to force principals to hire these teachers, but NYC schools chief Joel Klein is standing strong for principal autonomy, as well he should. The union needs a jolt of reality: Paying tenured teachers who aren’t teaching means firing tons more untenured ones who are, while principals leave vacancies and the district’s coffers are further emptied. That’s a lose-lose for everyone.