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New York Daily News


Klein's Teacher Hiring Freeze Will Leave City Kids Behind

May 09, 2009

By Marcus A. Winters

New Yorkers: Do you want your son or daughter to be taught by a teacher that no school wanted to employ? Unfortunately, last week's news of a hiring freeze in the New York City school system means that many of your kids will suffer that fate.

Schools Chancellor Joel Klein announced that due to budget constraints, the city's principals can no longer hire teachers who are not already in the system. The implication is that principals will be forced to hire teachers from the so-called absent-teacher reserve pool. These are teachers who lost their previous position - usually due to falling enrollment or the closure of their previous school - but have not been able to find a new position because no principal in the city wanted to hire them.

Previously, teachers who were "excessed" were simply forced on other schools. But after the union contract was renegotiated in 2005, they could no longer be. In perhaps the most important victory of the Bloomberg/Klein era, the city won for principals the right to hire teachers they actually wanted for open slots. But since it remained impossible to fire excessed teachers no one wanted, they remained on the payroll.

Most of these teachers couldn't find jobs because they were low-performing. A study by the New Teacher Project found that teachers who could not find a placement were six times more likely than other city teachers to have previously received an "unsatisfactory" rating.

Many of these teachers didn't even try to get a position. Eighteen percent of unplaced excessed teachers interviewed by the New Teacher Project admitted they never conducted a job search. And why should they seek a job? As one teacher explained, "I'm happy now \[in the absent teacher reserve\]. I don't have to prep, I don't have to grade tests, I don't have my own class. I don't really have to do anything."

The teacher uninterested in teaching who made that statement will soon be working again in a classroom near you. Send your thank-you notes to Randi Weingarten, care of the UFT. The union negotiates hard to make it impossible to just remove unwanted teachers.

Who are these leftovers pushing out of jobs? Mostly ambitious young would-be teachers from programs like Teach for America and the New York Teaching Fellows, the source of about 45% of all new teachers in the city over the past three years. Researchers at the Urban Institute recently found that the influx of these academically gifted and highly motivated new recruits produced learning gains in the city and has helped reduce the quality gap between teachers in poor schools and those in affluent ones.

Don't blame Chancellor Joel Klein and his team - they held on as long as they could to an unsustainable system. The reserve pool of approximately 1,100 teachers can only grow, since those in the pool can't be removed and new unwanted teachers continue to enter it. Paying these teachers not to teach cost the city an estimated $81 million over the last two years. At some point, the ever increasing cost of, in effect, paying the salaries of 2,200 teachers for 1,100 positions was going to require the system either to let go of the teachers who were idle or to place them in classrooms. Stuck with an indefensible but irreversible policy against firing subpar teachers, Klein and his team bowed to the inevitable.

If there is any bright side to the hiring freeze, perhaps it is that New Yorkers will finally understand the consequences of a system that seems more committed to keeping unwanted teachers in their jobs than to kids' education. Let's hope that the system's priorities are recalled when it comes time to renegotiate the teacher union contract.

Original Source:



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