By BARBARA MARTINEZ
A majority of New York City teachers who lost their positions at schools earlier this year have neither applied for another job in the system nor attended any recruitment fairs in recent months, according to data released by the Department of Education Thursday.
New York is the only city in the country where teachers are guaranteed pay for life even when their school closes and they are put out of a permanent job. In Chicago, teachers get a year to find a new job. In Washington, D.C., highly rated teachers get a year or a buyout option, while low-rated teachers are dismissed.
The employment guarantee costs New York's DOE more than $100 million a year in salary and benefits for teachers who don't have permanent teaching jobs, the agency says. Those teachers go into what the DOE calls the Absent Teacher Reserve pool, where they can be called up to work in schools as substitutes or do other jobs. The DOE says the average teacher in the ATR pool earns $82,000 a year, and some make more than $100,000. Some teachers have been in the pool since 2006.
The issue of the ATR pool promises to be one of the toughest battlegrounds this fall as both the DOE and the teachers union present arguments to a panel of mediators who will try to broker a deal for a teachers contract, which expired last fall.
"At a time when our schools are struggling to maintain vital programs and services, we cannot afford to spend $100 million a year paying the full salaries and benefits of teachers who aren't in the classroom teaching and many of whom aren't even trying to find new jobs," said Ann Forte, a DOE spokeswoman. "It's time for the UFT to work with us to find a better way."
The United Federation of Teachers counters that this is a problem of the DOE's making, and one that the UFT has offered to resolve in numerous ways, all of which have been rejected. The union said the schools chancellor, Joel Klein, could place the teachers in job vacancies in schools and wipe out the ATR pool. "The fact that he has chosen not to do so indicates that he prefers to have the issue to complain about rather than to resolve the problem," the UFT's president, Michael Mulgrew, said in a statement.
For Mr. Klein, forcing teachers into vacancies would go against his philosophy of giving principals market-based autonomy and accountability. For the UFT, putting a time limit on ATR teachers' ability to find jobs threatens the tenets of seniority and tenure, the sacred hallmarks of teachers unions.
Of the nearly 1,800 teachers in the ATR pool, 59% had not applied for any jobs through the DOE's job-recruitment system nor attended any of the job fairs, the DOE said. There are currently about 1,200 job openings in the system and significant restrictions on schools' abilities to hire teachers from outside of the system, giving ATR teachers and other current instructors first shot at job openings.
Write to Barbara Martinez at Barbara.Martinez@wsj.com
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