I might lose it. Forgive me if I do. A piece this week in the New York Times by Kate Taylor has me burning mad and ready to question the integrity of the entire class of educational and elected leaders of New York city.
Apparently America’s largest school system has been leaking $150 million for the salaries and benefits of teachers who have been removed from the classroom. These are teachers who for various reasons ended up on the district’s clearance rack along with Michael Bolton cassettes. It’s a very expensive broken toys department that robs children of resources and calls into question the never ending chant that we “fully fund public education” from people that go mute when this type of waste happens.
I find it shocking that the ride-or-die save-our-schools baristas with bullhorns aren’t storming the streets with silly signs and red t-shirts to demand the city stop diverting money from public schools. Why aren’t they demanding that this very expensive department stop its looting?
Where are all those reliably indignant freedom fighters who like to scream “fully fund public education”? Hiding?
And, it gets worse.
Now that budgets are busting (surprise!) the education department plans to send 400 of these teachers back to classrooms. Some of them haven’t taught in years.
Of the 822 teachers in the reserve at the end of the last school year, 25 percent had also been in it five years earlier. Nearly half had been in it at the end of the 2014-15 school year. The average salary was $94,000 a year, $10,000 more than the average salary of teachers across the school system.
Close to a third of the teachers in the pool were there because they had faced legal or disciplinary charges. Others worked in schools that were closed for poor performance or lost their jobs because of declining enrollments. Twelve percent had received the lowest possible ratings of effectiveness in the 2015-16 school year; only 1 percent of all teachers in the system scored so low.
If you were a betting person, where do you think those teachers land? In the schools with powerful parents who have city leaders on speed dial?
Or in the classrooms where we continually dump the sum total of all public education inequities onto the children of families in poverty?
Education experts are worried that a disproportionate number of the teachers will be placed in schools in poorer areas, like the South Bronx, which have difficulty attracting and retaining teachers. Some may be placed in schools in the Renewal Schools program, one of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s signature education initiatives, which is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to turn around low-performing schools.
The principal of a high school in Manhattan, who did not want to be named out of fear of reprisal from supervisors in the department, was blunt about the effect: “You’re going to force the worst teachers in the system into the schools that are struggling the most.”
If you’re wondering why would a public school system would make such a costly deal to pay teachers for not working, I have one word: seniority.
The reserve pool was created so principals would not be forced to take unwanted teachers, and to avoid veteran teachers from bumping better performing teachers (or teachers deemed essential to their school’s team),
Districts care about outcomes, unions care about jobs. This deal is what the public pays to settle their differences.
You won’t be surprised to know that Michael Mulgrew, the union boss, thinks returning these teachers to the classroom is a good move.
“What we’re trying to do is give a more stable educational environment for the students,” he said.
Nice spin there Darth Vader, but poor instruction should never be “stable” and the tune will be different if theses teachers end up in affluent schools.
I hope we get to hear from all of the community groups who exploited the fudge out of a comment posted on Facebook by billionaire Dan Loeb last week. That meaningless organizing moment got lots of traction. Let’s hear from them now.
Here are those groups: Action Potluck, Alliance for Quality Education, Badass Teachers Association, The Black Institute, Brooklyn Movement Center, Citizen Action of New York, Hedge Clippers, Justice League NYC, Make the Road New York, New York Communities for Change, New York Indivisible, Strong Economy for All, True Blue NY, and Working Families Party.
Let me know when they decide to get involved in something that matters for children. Like bad teachers getting sympathy assignments in marginalized neighborhoods. We’ll see where their #solidarity lives.
That the city would even consider sending the wrong teachers to struggling schools is a sign of weak leadership, flexible morality, and cowardly negotiation. It’s unacceptable.
Under-resourced communities and the parents in them should consider this an act of war waged by the middle-class against the poor, and respond accordingly.
They should have only one clear demand, “do what ever you need to do, except, don’t you dare put those jacked up teachers in our classrooms.”