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The Ideal Teachers’ Deal


The Ideal Teachers’ Deal

Sol Stern, Sol Stern April 30, 2002
Urban PolicyNYC
EducationPre K-12

With the teachers' contract in the final stages of negotiation — money and the mayor's demand for work rule changes are still the big hangups — the Daily News has asked five experts to offer their views on what should be in the final agreement. The opinions cover a range of issues, from pay to seniority, but they share a single focus: improving the quality of education in New York City's public schools.

Rewrite the Seniority Rule

My son's math teacher at Stuyvesant High School last year transferred into the school at age 70. In more than 30 years in the system, he never taught anything more challenging than introductory high school math.

J. Cozzi Perullo, Stuyvesant's principal at the time, tried to convince him that he wasn't up to teaching at the city's premier math and science school. But he insisted on his right under the teachers' union contract to a Stuyvesant vacancy based on his years of seniority.

As the principal feared, the teacher was in way over his head. His classes became a school joke — except that it wasn't funny to his students. Many ended up with gaps in meeting Stuyvesant's tough math standards.

Versions of this story are repeated hundreds of times every year in the city schools. Principals are required to post half their job openings and fill them with a transferring teacher with seniority. The principal doesn't even have the right to interview the incoming teacher. Seniority also governs most in-school assignments.

The contract devalues academic accomplishment and hard work by teachers. Its underlying premise is that protecting teachers' jobs always trumps the rights of children to competent instruction.

If Mayor Bloomberg had been encumbered with such work rules in his media enterprises, he would have been bankrupt instead of a billionaire.

Surely he must understand that there can be no true reform of the city's education enterprise without radically rewriting this fundamentally immoral document.