There is controversy between gothamschools.org's Anna Phillips, whom I respect, and the Wall Street Journal over how many excessed teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve pool have actually pounded the pavement to look for jobs. The two news organizations also disagree on whether Joel Klein is offering to keep ATR's forever. Our take is that both the Journal and Gotham need to read the UFT contract.
The Wall Street Journal editorial page is not totally wrong (OK right there that might be unusual). Klein wants principals to be able to hire their staff and then be held accountable for the school's results just as the Journal says. If a teacher is forced out of a school because a school closed or a program shrank, the Journal is saying that Klein wants to offer job protection for that teacher. That is what has happened since 2005 and will keep going forever unless there is a change in the contract that the UFT will never agree to so the Journal is basically correct.
Anna Phillips from Gothamschools says Klein wants to get rid of the ATR's but is being forced to keep them because of the UFT contract. Anna is kind of right too but she doesn't mention that Klein is the one who agreed to this system in 2005 so he is stuck with it.
Because we have the Taylor Law, the UFT contract that expired in October of 2009 stays in effect until there is a new one. The UFT is a very weak union for sure. I know first hand because of the way the UFT sold out Jamaica High School after winning the law suit to keep us open, but subsequently they allowed two new schools to illegally take over our space so we are de facto phasing out anyway. Yes, it is a weak union but they are not suicidal.
Since the Department of Education closes schools in droves these days, it would mean that the UFT would basically be killing off its veteran membership if they agreed to allow ATR's to be terminated if they can't find a job after a year as Klein wants. As many have pointed out, there is a financial disincentive for principals to hire veteran teachers so thousands would be let go as has happened in other cities.
UFT will not set this precedent by giving up seniority rights for ATR's as the entire municipal labor movement would soon be asked to do the same because of pattern bargaining. Imagine the city closing sanitation garages to get rid of veteran sanitation workers. I don't forsee the UFT selling out the entire municipal labor movement so basically the Journal is right as the UFT can go forever without a new contract which means Klein is essentially offering ATR's jobs indefinitely. Both the Journal and Gotham are vindicated; successful mediation by the ICE blog.
On the issue of why there are ATR's, all sides miss this one by a wide margin.
Klein is making a big deal out of the actual number of ATR's who have looked for jobs. Anna Phillips has the facts clearly on her side over the Wall Street Journal concerning the percentage of ATR's who have applied for jobs, but the whole argument doesn't address the main issue at all. ATR's contractually have no obligation to look for any jobs. If they wait to be placed in a regular or ATR position, they are doing absolutely nothing wrong.
The ATR crisis is completely made up by Joel Klein and his friends at the UFT. If they were to follow the UFT contract, then it would be up to the Board of Education (official title of DOE) to place teachers.
Let's go to the actual contract where Article 17B Rule 4 states: "Teachers in excess in a school unit or office under the juristiction of a community district must be placed in vacancies within the district to the fullest degree possible. For school units, districts, or other organizational units under the juristiction of the central board, teachers in excess must be placed in appropriate vacancies within the district or central office." That is pretty clear language that puts the responsibility to place excessed teachers on the Board of Education.
In the horrible 2005 contract, the Board and the UFT added a Rule 11 to Article 17B that says: "Unless a principal denies the placement, an excessed teacher will be placed by the Board into a vacancy within his/her district/superintendency. The Board will place the excessed teacher who is not so placed in an ATR position in the school from which he/she is excessed, or in another school in the same district or superintendency."
These are the only changes from Rule 4 that were added by the new Rule 11:
First, to the fullest degree possible is out so excessed people must stay in their district/superintendency.
Second, now principals can deny placements and then the teacher becomes an ATR who has to stay in his/her district.
Where in the contract does it say that an excessed teacher has to call principals, go door to door, check on line for vacancies, apply and give demonstration lessons as if they are a new hire? It doesn't; the responsibility to place teachers belongs to the Board of Education, not the teacher. Case closed. It says it in the contract.
The fact that the Board no longer places excessed employees but instead tells people in excess to go to job fairs or pound the pavement as if these are laid off workers or new people looking for a job is a violation of the contract. The Board is supposed to place excessed employees. The fact that the UFT allows this to go on and gives classes to veteran teachers in polishing up their resumes shows how the UFT is basically in sync with the Board of Ed.
This is how it should work according to the contract. A teacher is placed in excess and is sent to a new school inside the district. The principal can accept that teacher or deny placement. If the teacher is accepted, then he/she is part of that new school. If the principal says no, then the person can become an ATR or be sent to another school in the district.
Teachers who want to transfer should apply for openings as it gives them more options which we are not against. However if someone is excessed and chooses to wait to be placed, it is a contractual right to be placed by the employer just as the city places firefighters when firehouses close or police officers when they clear out precints. How many jobs an excessed teacher has applied for is completely irrelevant. Joel Klein has authority to place all of the excessed teachers and he chooses to scapegoat them instead of finding them teaching positions. He has no right to force them to look for positions.