By James Eterno, UFT Chapter Leader; Jamaica High School
For almost a week I have been studying the new “Side Agreement” between the Department of Education and the United Federation of Teachers concerning Absent Teacher Reserves. It is a complicated document which we posted on this blog the other day. I urge everyone to read it and come out to the rally to support ATRs at
I have also spent a great deal of time talking about the Side Agreement with the many ATR’s and Absent Secretary Reserves and Absent Guidance Counselor Reserves at
Under prior Contracts, when a UFT member was excessed because a school or program’s enrollment declined, they were placed in a position within their district or central program and only moved out of a district if there were no vacancies. Excessed people did not normally bump appointed people with less seniority. However, the 2005 Contract gave principals a veto over any hiring. The term ATR was put into the Contract. Basically, it said excessed people could be sent anywhere in a district as a substitute and could do nothing about it.
When schools were closed before the disastrous 2005 Contract, the teachers who were at a closing school had preferred placement rights. The actual language from Article 18G5 stated, “All appointed and certified provisional staff from the impacted school(s) shall be offered the broadest placement choices available within the authority of the Board; and where possible, their wishes will be taken into account when placing them into positions.” It goes on to say, “These rights are in addition to any other contractual right to transfer that an employee may exercise.”
However, Article 18G5 was eliminated from the 2005 Contract and replaced by a truncated Article 18D; preferred placement was gone. No longer was a teacher virtually guaranteed a job in a school on their wish list if their school was closed. Now, we have to write a resume, apply for jobs and hopefully convince a Principal to hire us. This has become more difficult with “Fair Student Funding” which will soon make the cost to a principal on his/her budget for hiring a teacher the individual teacher’s actual salary, instead of an average of all the teachers. There is a disincentive to hire experienced people who are paid more. The new Side Agreement addresses this problem somewhat.
Under its terms, centrally funded ATR’s will have to serve as ATR’s for five months if excessed in June, or ten months if excessed in January in order for a school to be able to hire them at a discount rate. If anyone is excessed in June, a Principal would be crazy to hire them before November when ATR's go on sale. The Side Agreement would seem to favor people who have been in excess for at least five to ten months. However, in November and later in the school year, how many positions are out there? Most jobs open up in September when a school year starts. For all intents and purposes, most teachers in excess without “connections” will spend a year in exile.
After November 1 of the year someone is excessed, the Side Agreement says a Principal can hire us and the cost to his budget will be half the price of a beginning teacher for year one and the price of a starting teacher for seven more years. We get paid full salary; the Central DOE makes up the difference. This is a true discount for principals that should lessen the number of long-term ATR’s. However, as budgets are cut and more schools are closed, principals will have a strong incentive not to hire people who have not yet been discounted so don’t expect this Agreement to solve the ATR problem.
Furthermore, the Side Agreement permits Principals to try an ATR out from November to June and then excess the person regardless of seniority or the teacher can leave in June if he/she does not like the new school. Yet another second class status of teachers has been created.
Unscrupulous principals might even try to “fix” the system by engineering teacher trades. For example, Principal A excesses Teacher A and convinces the Central DOE to fund Teacher A for the year while another principal excesses Teacher B. Low and behold after November 1, the two schools magically have openings and Principal A hires Teacher B while the other Principal picks up Teacher A. Now, they have discounted teachers as they are only charged starting pay for eight years.
There are so many questions this Side Agreement does not resolve? What about ATR’s who are being used to cover vacancies in the schools where they were excessed from? There are currently three teachers at
As for Secretaries and Guidance Counselors, their job descriptions when they are ATR’s are not addressed by the Side Agreement. Also, what about school funded ATR’s? The Side Agreement only covers centrally funded ATR’s. If someone is excessed and the school is still carrying that person on the budget, the teacher does not go on sale in November. Good luck finding a new position. If DOE doesn’t like the way the Side Agreement is going, they can easily just move the ATR’s back on school budgets. Then, what do we do?
The whole ATR debacle is an affront to civil service rules that have been a cornerstone of
Yes, we still need certification, but that can be easily expedited with Teach for
To understand the folly of this system, try it with firefighters. Remember a few years ago when Mayor Bloomberg was closing firehouses. The firefighters from those houses were absorbed into different fire houses. Imagine if they had to pound the pavement and find new jobs because their fire houses were closed. There would be a public outcry in support of the AFR’s. However, with teachers, Joel Klein can make this Side Agreement and still declare in his press release, “While we continue to believe that teachers in the ATR pool should not be permitted to stay on the payroll indefinitely, this agreement represents a needed step forward.” A real step forward would be for teachers to mobilize to take back each and every one of the givebacks from the 2005 Contract that have made teaching and learning conditions next to impossible.
For now, happy pavement pounding everyone. Maybe, we should have the UFT put out a list of where every school is having their holiday parties so ATR’s can crash and make nice-nice with principals.