Here is the offending paragraph in the August 21 UFT press release:
How did the ATR pool come to be?
The ATR pool — a reserve pool of teachers working as substitutes but without permanent assignments — was a personnel policy devised by the Bloomberg administration that was poorly designed and never effectively implemented, particularly after the pool expanded in the wake of school closings during the Bloomberg years. As the school-closing mania has receded, the size of the pool has diminished.
Talk about revisionist history. The UFT can conveniently leave out its own role in the creation of the ATR pool but the facts show otherwise. The UFT is as responsible as former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and then Chancellor Joel Klein for the establishment of the ATR pool. The UFT agreed to it and put it into the contract in 2005. That is a fact. The UFT has developed a case of 2005 contract amnesia. It's one of those psychological situations where the mind can block out traumatic events or maybe they just want the membership to forget about their part in this debacle.
A quick fact check shows that prior to the 2005 contract - the contract that did so much to ruin teaching in New York City - when schools closed members were given preferred placement in assignment to new schools and there was a wide range of transfer opportunities available for senior teachers as well as teachers in excess due to downsizing of programs. There were many escape valves for teachers and no need to languish in an ATR pool as a substitute teacher.
Back in July of this year, this blog reported in great detail what our pre-2005 contract transfer options were.
We described how both the seniority and School Based Option transfer plans worked:
Article 18A of the 1995-2000 contract and the 2000-2003 contract (that lasted until 2005) based transfers solely on the basis of seniority. A teacher picked up to six schools and was given the first one where he/she had the most seniority among applicants.
Article 18A9 said this:
In the case of teachers indicating the same choice of school, preference shall be given to the teacher with the greatest seniority.
Could you even conceive of that being in the contract in 2017?
Teachers could reject schools, not principals. The penalty for teachers rejecting a transfer was not being able to use the seniority plan the following year.
There were real restrictions that limited movement with the seniority system. Only five percent of the teachers were permitted to transfer out of a school using this plan. In addition, schools only listed half of their vacancies. The point was to give senior teachers an escape route from difficult settings, like if a crazy principal took over or a chance to be closer to home. Now, teachers are trapped for the most part and principals don't want veterans because of the added cost on their budgets which in those days was not a problem.
If the seniority transfer system was not to a teacher's liking, there was the SBO transfer and staffing plan added to the contract in 1995. Personnel Committees were set up to fill vacancies in schools. Schools had to opt in to this system by 75% of UFT staff (55% after 2002) voting for a School Based Option that the principal and chapter leader signed off on. Contract Article 18F defined the SBO personnel committees:
The personnel committees shall be comprised of school staff members, the UFT chapter leader, the head of the school, and parents selected by the school's parent association. Where appropriate, others should be invited to participate. The majoirty of the members of the personnel committees shall be teachers selected by the UFT chapter.
Personnel committees with a majority of teachers hired staff just twelve short years ago!
Then there is this gem later in Article 18F:
The personnel committee will select the most experienced qualified applicant of those candidates who apply for vacancies advertised under the transfer component of the SBO transfer and staffing plan.
There were exceptions for less senior applicants with "extraordinary qualifications". The same personnel committee with a teacher majority hired new UFT staff in SBO schools as well.
If an applicant felt he/she was rejected wrongfully by the personnel committee, there was an expedited grievance procedure that went to an arbitrator. This process was fair by accounts I have heard.
Those were the options for changing schools before 2005. In addition, there were transfers to further integration and hardship transfers for travel which were basically automatic if a teacher had to travel more than 90 minutes by public transportation to get to work.
The point of our July post was to say we had many options to move to a different school but the Union, not Joel Klein or Mayor Bloomberg, gave them away in 2005.
This blog also explained the history of how educators from closing schools were given the widest placement choices before the UFT 2005 contract. This is what we wrote in April 2014 in our proposal to end the ATR pool.
The best way to get the ATRs back in the classroom this fall would be to make hiring decisions for people from closing schools (and other ATRs) in a similar manner to the way it was done before the horrific 2005 contract. Back then teachers were given placement choices within the widest range possible by the Board of Education if a school was closed or reorganized (old Contractual Article 18G). Senior teachers were not seen as ogres who caused schools to shut down in those days.
A teacher was given a wish-list of six schools and then was sent to one of them. Since some principals are reluctant to take veteran teachers in the current educational climate because we may talk too much, there would have to be a deal reached to influence some of them to accept ATRs.
The DOE should give ATRs the six school wish-list but instead of sticking ATRs on principals and making them pay on the school budget, the DOE should pay for ATRs centrally for their entire salary for as long as necessary (maybe up to a decade) when an ATR is placed in a school. A principal would not be charged a dime from the school's budget. There would be no extra charge for the city taxpayers either as it's just a matter of paying for people on a central budget-line as opposed to a school budget-line. Any subsequent downsizing caused by budget cuts or declining enrollments would be neutralized by this real subsidy. ATR's could be used to lower class sizes and guidance caseloads, a not so novel idea.
Under this plan, no ATR who had an ounce of sense would apply for a school that had a vicious anti-teacher principal unless they didn't do homework on schools. (Yes I know principal turnover is high but at least ATRs could start out at places where they want to be.)
Our proposal would eliminate the ATR pool in about a day.
For those who think the ATRs should be given a time limit to find a new job, we dealt with that issue on this blog in detail too in that 2014 posting. A time limit for ATRs has been settled at fact-finding arbitration and the city lost:
The UFT contract has gone to non-binding fact finding arbitration as per state law on four occasions including now. One such arbitration panel proposed a settlement for the 2005 contract that the UFT for some inexplicable reason agreed was reasonable.
The 2005 arbitrators gave the city much of what it wanted including a longer school day, a longer school year, the end of a UFT member's right to file a grievance on a disciplinary letter for file based on its fairness or accuracy, the return of teachers to involuntary cafeteria and hall duty, weaker due process, an end to seniority and school based option transfers, an end to preferred placement for UFT members if a school was closed, an end to guaranteed placement if someone was placed in excess and more givebacks.
However after just about conceding the entire store to the city, the arbitrators specifically rejected the city's proposal to have a time limit for people placed in excess to find a new job or be terminated. Here is the actual language from 2005:
"Fourth, the City/DOE has recommended that an excessed teacher who does not find a new position within 18 months of being excessed be terminated from the system. We specifically reject this proposal." (page 45; 2005 Fact Finding Report, bold added by me)
Since the Chancellor at the time, Joel Klein, believed that principals should be the sole judges as to who works in their schools, preferred placement for people from closing schools, a part of the previous contract, was ended and instead people in excess had to spruce up their resumes and look for a job. If they were not successful, they became Absent Teacher Reserves.
ATR status is an indignity that to my knowledge is exclusive to educators. It is only UFT members and assistant principals among public employees in
When firehouses close, do the firefighters have to knock on other fire house doors to find a new position?
When there are corruption problems and the NYPD cleans out entire precincts, do the clean cops, who just happened to work where there were major issues, have to go to other captains with their resumes to find a job?
It is only the educators.
In 2006 Joel Klein took a second bite at the firing the ATRs apple in contract negotiations. This time Klein and the UFT agreed to a voluntary buyout proposal for ATRs but he never offered much of a buyout so it never happened. The 2014 and 2017 buyouts weren't very appealing either.)
Then, former Mayor Bloomberg knew he wouldn't get anywhere at the bargaining table, as the issue was resolved twice in contract negotiations, so he tried to go to Albany in 2011 to change civil service law since New York State law uses reverse seniority for layoffs and time limits for ATRs would violate the law. At that time Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver refused to allow a bill to change reverse seniority layoffs for NYC teachers to come to the Assembly floor. It was dead on arrival. That's three failed bites at the firing the excessed teachers apple for the city.
What has changed since then? If anything, the political tide has moved more in labor's favor with the election of a more union friendly mayor.
In addition, it must be pointed out how even though UFT leaders might not be the greatest union officials on the planet, they are not stupid. In Chicago and DC where teacher unions agreed to put a time limit on teachers to find a job after a school was closed or downsized, those union leaders ended up being defeated in subsequent elections.
The Murdoch publications (Wall Street Journal-NY Post), the Daily News, Chalkbeat, Campbell Brown, and all of the astro-turf organizations that hate public schools and unions can waste another ton of paper and lots of internet bandwidth saying how we need to fire teachers who can't get a principal to agree to hire them but can anyone see any circumstances where teachers would ever agree to such conditions?
Seniority rights are a basic union principle. If the DOE wants to terminate a tenured teacher, they have to go through the legally mandated 3020A process, which still exists although it certainly is weaker under the new teacher evaluation law.
The only question that should be on the table now is how to get the ATRs back in the classroom.
As most readers of this blog know, I come from
I only know of about four or five teachers who were hired permanently from the ATR pool in the last couple of years. Everyone else found a provisional position to cover a vacancy/replace someone who went on a leave or they were not hired. A few of the provisional hires were kept but many were not and are back in the ATR pool. I know of no senior ATRS with over 20 years in the system, whose schools were closed, who have found a permanent job in another school. (This paragraph could be revised a little by 2017 but basically it still holds up.)
Principals were offered generous subsidies to accept ATRs permanently (they only had to pay half of a beginning teacher salary for eight years from their budgets) in a 2008 ATR Agreement between the DOE and UFT but it did not eliminate the ATR pool. I do not agree that if they change funding to go back to charging principals an average of all of a district's teachers that it will eliminate the ATR pool as some people are hoping. The 2008 subsidies didn't work because many principals do not want too many senior people in their schools, regardless of cost.
If a principal were to hire someone like me with twenty-eight years experience, I would take my rightful place on the school's seniority list and probably be one of the senior people in that school in the Social Studies Department. If that school then was downsized due to decreased enrollments or there was a budget cut (always a possibility), the Principal would be stuck with me and have to place into excess a newer teacher. I understand why principals would want to protect their junior people who will more than likely not be tenured and can be made to do whatever administration wants (for example pass every student) as opposed to someone like me who might have some problems with that.
Senior educators who can retire within a few years provide a good check on excessive administrator behavior and should be seen as valuable integrity people who can blow the whistle on wrongdoing without fear of reprisal. I understand how we could be seen as dangerous to certain principals who want to play with statistics to make themselves look good. Schools will need substantial incentives to hire educators who could be seen as a threat to principal power over their
Just as Winston Churchill once said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others, seniority is the worst method to base hiring/layoff decisions except for all the others. We have no meritocracy in the school system so basing hiring/firing solely on administrator judgment would not improve education. On the contrary, it would make it worse as nobody would be able to speak out against terrible practices for fear of losing their paycheck.
It would complete the bridge to the 19th Century that those who wish to privatize education want. Back then, hiring and firing was based on patronage in public service. Anyone who thinks that a better system would emerge should read up on government jobs before the 1883 PendletonAct was passed to find out how politics intruding on hiring in the public sector is a bad idea.
It makes me so frustrated that this bogus ATR issue is not solved as of 2017 when ATRs could easily be placed back in schools of their own choosing in about a day or two. Instead of listening to us, the Board of Ed and Union have negotiated two new ATR Agreements and a few months ago the Board hired yet another high priced bureaucrat to reduce the ATR pool.
As for the UFT's role in creating the ATR disaster, there are six words they need to utter to us all:
We were wrong and we're sorry.
Saying those simple words would go a long way toward building some confidence back in the Union from people who were thrown into the ATR pool. However, the UFT would rather keep suffering from selective amnesia about their role in creating the ATR pool and hoping we will too.
This blog will not forget.