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New York Post

 

A Teachers' Contract That Helps Kids

October 05, 2009

By Marcus A. Winters

It’s once again time for the city to renegotiate its contract with public school teachers. Mayor Bloomberg should resist demands by the United Federation of Teachers for substantial pay hikes and instead push for reforms that will save taxpayers money and make the city’s public schools better.

Teachers have already had a good run under Bloomberg: Salaries are up 43 percent. Yet higher pay doesn’t improve learning one bit.

A teacher’s salary has absolutely no bearing on classroom performance. Blanket raises merely reward teachers for sticking around and for earning advanced degrees from education colleges -- two things that research shows are unrelated to teaching effectiveness.

The city faces huge deficits in the years ahead -- and many of its citizens are struggling financially right now. And, unlike public-school teachers, most New Yorkers don’t have a guaranteed job for life. This is not a good time to give teachers more money just for the heck of it.

But simply holding the line on teacher pay isn’t enough. The new UFT contract should also save strapped taxpayers some cash by letting the Department of Education fire teachers stuck in the Absent Teacher Reserve for more than a year.

The ATR is a pool of teachers displaced from the classroom because of school closures or other reasons. Teachers stay in the pool until they can convince a principal to hire them. Most get picked up readily by a new school -- but a few stay in the ATR for years.

The just-expired union contract forbids the district from firing these teachers that no school wants. They continue to receive their full salary and benefits. According to the New Teacher Project, last year we paid these teachers $74 million not to teach.

Of course, the UFT has its own solution to the ATR problem: Force principals to hire these teachers even though they don’t want them. And budget realities have now obliged the DOE to do just that: It has halted the hiring of new teachers. Principals must now fill empty positions with teachers from the ATR -- teachers no one else wants -- instead of younger, more energetic teachers from programs like Teach for America and New York City Teaching Fellows. (These programs have accounted for about a third of new hires over the last three years.)

This is a tragedy on two levels. Such new hires are not only more effective than the rejects in the ATR pool, they’re also less expensive.

Thus, amending the UFT contract to allow removal of ATR teachers will save taxpayers money and provide better teaching for the city’s children.

The mayor deserves credit for recent improvements in test scores and graduation rates. But the 70 percent increase in education spending on his watch is nothing he should be proud of. It’s time to reign in these runaway costs. Fighting off a salary increase and addressing the problems posed by the ATR will trim the city’s budget and keep our schools on the right track.

Original Source: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/teachers_contract_that_helps_kids_mdu8EXay40dtP5JbVaG7NO

 

 
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