We have an agreement between the UFT and the city that eliminates the possibility of over 4,000 layoffs this year. We also gain increased hiring opportunities for Absent Teacher Reserves to be hired provisionally and to get considered for positions at reduced costs to principals. In exchange the UFT has agreed to suspend sabbaticals for 2012-2013 and to allow the DOE to move Absent Teacher Reserves who are not lucky enough to secure a permanent position from school to school on a weekly basis.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew's report at tonight's emergency Delegate Assembly highlighted the no layoff part of the agreement, which we are all happy about. Nobody in their right mind wants to see over 4,000 teachers lose their jobs. Mulgrew also thanked everyone for doing work with the state and city council. He told us the mayor said he wanted non seniority layoffs. He talked about opposing the mayor with the city council. He didn't, however, talk for too long about the part of the agreement that dealt with Absent Teacher Reserves becoming nomads.
The new agreement forces each principal to interview at least two ATRS per semester if they have vacancies and they are supposed to hire ATRS for vacancies and leave replacements. I don’t quite understand what happens if they interview two and don’t like them. Can they then hire someone from outside or give the classes away in a secondary school as a sixth class for special per session pay or to substitutes? UFT leadership believes these new procedures will lead to a big reduction in the ATR pool. I hope they are correct because anyone unfortunate enough to be left behind in the ATR pool risks becoming a teacher gypsy.
The agreement on page three contains the following ominous clause: "An Excessed Employee/ATR shall be assigned to a school within his/her district/superintendency each week. A 'week' shall be Monday through Friday, or shorter if the work week is less than five(5) days." Then there is clause C which says: "An Excessed Empoyee/ATR shall be notfied no later than Friday (or the last work-day of the week) if he/she will be assigned to a different school the following week and, if so, to which school. An ATR who has not been notified that he/she has been assigned to a different school by Friday shall report on Monday, or the first work day of the work day of the work week, and for the duration of that week, to the last school to which he/she was assigned." In other words, if a teacher does not find a permanent job on his or her own, buy a good GPS.
Besides the obvious problems of ATRS not having stability from week to week and not being able to bond with students, or know which person in each particular school to go to in order to resolve issues with payroll or their sick bank days or other items, this makes it virtually impossible for ATRs to do any per session work (extra activities for money that are pensionable.) We are truly worried that ATRS will now become third class citizens.
One of the worst parts of the horrible giveback laden 2005 contract was the loss of placement rights for members whose schools close or are excessed because their school or program is downsized. Since then, there has been a pool of teachers ranging from the hundreds to thousands called ATRs who have no permanent job and must substitute. Under current rules, ATRs usually stay in a school for a year and then can be reassigned. It is not a very professional existence but we are told by UFT leaders that at least the ATRs have jobs. In 2008 the DOE and UFT came to an agreement to allow principals to hire ATRs and only get charged on their budget the cost of half of a starting teacher for seven years. (The teacher still gets full pay.) The UFT predicted this would basically end the ATR problem but it didn't. The reasons ATRs are not hired are either because they have obscure licenses or they are activists who are not going to say, "How high?" when a principal tells them to "Jump!"
UFT Secretary Michael Mendel told me the ATRS will have a much greater chance of getting a full time position under this new agreement. Again, I truly want him to be right but I fear he might be wrong. The subsidies didn't lead to the withering away of the ATR pool and neither will this as I see it because unfortunately some principals don't care about cost as much as they care about control. Furthermore, having teachers do coverages is much cheaper than hiring someone they don’t know.
Balancing the budget on the backs of ATRS is not quite as awful as balancing it on the backs of newer teachers who would have been laid off but it was totally unnecessary. With Bloomberg’s poll numbers on education sinking to "Bushian Post Hurricane Katrina" levels, the UFT was holding all of the cards and should have insisted that to save money that the DOE should be compelled to place all of the ATRS into positions in their districts. That would save some money for sure as it would eliminate the ATR pool if DOE was not allowed to do any new hiring until every ATR in a license in a district was placed. Any remaining ATRs could cover classes in an individual school so as not to create the potential chaos that this agreement could bring.
Teacher bashing continues. When firehouses close, the firefighters aren't blamed and they are sent to another firehouse. When police precincts redeploy whole precincts because of corruption scandals, the clean cops who worked in the corrupt precinct don't have to apply to other precinct captains. They are transferred. Only teachers face the indignity of having to pound the pavement to seek a job because a program was downsized or closed.
President Mulgrew said this union leaves no educator behind. This is not totally true as the ATRs have certainly been left to basically fend for themselves.