Thursday, January 29, 2015

New York City And State Expect To Save Billions On New Teacher Pensions.



























Despite the conservative think tanks like the Manhattan Institute and Bellwether Education Partners who claim that public employee pensions will bankrupt the City and State, when the next recession rolls around, the truth is the Tier VI pension plan will eventually save billions of dollars.  The Tier VI pension plan affects all public sector employees, starting April1, 2012.  No, its not an April fools joke, This plan is significantly inferior to the previous Tiers IV and V.  However, since few people are under Tier V, since it started on January 1, 2010 and ended March 31 2012, I decided only to compare the Tier IV pensions with the Tier VI pensions.

The table below shows different scenarios for New York City teachers and the pensions they would receive under both Tier IV and Tier VI.

Pension Scenarios For Tier IV And Tier VI Teachers In New York City

Tier.........FAS.........Years.........Pension.........Age.....Reduction

IV,,,,,,,,,$65,000........5.............$5,428...........62
VI,,,,,,,,,$65,000........5.............$0..................63.......$5,428


IV,,,,,,,,,$75,000........9..........$11,273............62
VI,,,,,,,,,$75,000........9............$0...................63......$11,273

IV,,,,,,,,,$80,000.......10..........$13,360...........62
VI,,,,,,,,,$80,000.......10..........$12,425...........62........$935

 IV,,,,,,,,$100,000......10.........$13,360...........62
VI,,,,,,,,,$100,000......10.........$13,360...........63.........$0


IV,,,,,,,,,$80,000........10.........$11,757...........60
VI,,,,,,,,,$80,000........10.........$10,822...........60........$935


IV,,,,,,,,,$88,000.......15...........$17,415.........57
VI,,,,,,,,,$88,000.......15...........$13,447.........57.......$3,932


IV,,,,,,,$100,,000.....20............$29,200.........55
VI,,,,,,,$100,000......20............$16,032.........55......$13,167


IV,,,,,,,,$100,000.....20...........$40,000..........62
VI,,,,,,,,$100,000.....20...........$35,000..........63.......$5,000

 IV,,,,,,,$100,000......22...........$42,350.........62
VI,,,,,,,,$100,000.....22............$32,725.........63.......$3,625

IV,,,,,,,,$125,000.....25............$50,000.........62
VI,,,,,,,,$125,000.....25............$43,750.........63.......$6,250
 
IV,,,,,,,,$100,000....30.............$60,000.........62
VI,,,,,,,,$100,000....30.............$52,500.........63.......$7,500

 IV,,,,,,,$100,000....30............$60,000..........55
VI,,,,,,,,$100,000....30............$25,200..........55.......$34,800

It's obvious that the City and State will realize significant pension savings in the next decade and beyond.   If you take in account that the Final Average Salary (FAS) is the five highest consecutive years under Tier VI, rather than the three highest FAS in Tier IV and the age reduction factors are larger, the Tier VI pensions will be smaller  In addition, Tier VI teachers must contribute a minimum of 3.5% and that rises to 6% throughout their teaching career while the Tier IV teacher only contributes 3% for the first ten years.  Moreover, since it now takes ten years to be vested, over 40% of New York State teachers will leave the profession before being eligible for even a minimal pension.  Finally, if Governor Cuomo gets his way, few Tier VI teachers will last long enough tp reach full retirement age.

For a comparison of Tier IV, V, and VI pension plans, look at my post Here.

 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

How To Defeat Governor Andrew Cuomo's Destructive Education Agenda.



























I am bitterly disappointed at the tepid NYSUT/UFT reaction to Governor Andrew Cuomo's attack on the State's teachers.  Instead of  drawing a line in the sand and expose the Governor's education agenda as an education reformer attempt to destroy the teaching profession and public education, they talk about compromising with the Governor about providing additional funding to the education budget in exchange for changes in the teacher evaluation system.  In the popular nyc educator blog, he points out that some unnamed sources have told him that NYSUT/UFT are already negotiating with the Governor's office on the APPR.  If true, that is real bad news.  Instead of fighting for their members, they are compromising and weakening our "due process rights" for a few more education dollars while allowing the Governor to gradually destroy our profession as we know it.

What can we do to stop the hypocritical Governor, who believes that the high stakes Common Core tests should not be used to evaluate the students who take them but be used against teachers who teach the students, despite the fact that the "Value Added Method" is considered "junk Science" by all academic associations?  The ICEUFT blog has proposed to boycott the administration of the high stakes Common Core tests and work with the various "opt out" groups throughout the State by starving the data beast and I strongly agree with that approach.

Our union leadership must take the lead and organize a counterattack against, not only the Governor's education agenda, but fight for the elimination of the Common Core based high stakes tests that only cause
children to hate school because of their fear and loathing of the test. That means working closely with the many education organizations that are against the mindless testing regime instituted by the State.  Our union and their allies have enough political clout to make sure that many politicians in the State Legislature to think twice about voting for the Governor's education agenda, even Republicans would join in since many of them are against the Common Core.

I propose that NYSUT and the local unions boycott the State's high stakes Common Core tests and work with the many various "opt out" groups into a Statewide organization to have enough students to refuse to take the tests and teachers to administer them so that the State cannot use the information for either student progress or teacher evaluation.  Compromising with this Governor is like making a "deal with the devil" and no good will comes from it, its time to take the fight to Albany and destroy the use of the useless and destructive State high stakes Common Core tests once and for all.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Legendary "Rubber Room" Teacher, Alan Rosenfeld Passes Away - Rest In Peace



























I was just informed by a colleague that Alan Rosenfeld passed away from Cancer yesterday.  Who was Alan Rosenfeld?  He was legendary for his extended stay in the DOE's "rubber room".  Alan spent eleven years away from the classroom, while collecting his full salary and increasing his pension by $1,700 every year simply because Chancellor Joel Klein decided that Mr. Rosenfeld should not be with students.  This was called "Chancellor's discretion" and Alan was one of a handful of teachers and guidance counselors (ranging from 6 to 10) who the DOE's Office of Legal Services has kept out of the classroom since 2001.

What terrible things were Alan Rosenfeld accused of doing?  In 2001, he was accused of telling one student that she loved him because she liked to talk to him.  Also the DOE claimed he stared at the girls and leered at their butts, and made frequent lewd comments to female students.  The independent arbitrator threw out most of the charges as being unfounded hearsay and found Mr. Rosenfeld guilty of only masking an inappropriate comment to a student (the you love me comment).  His punishment?  He was suspended one week without pay.  Yes, just one week!  Somehow, Chancellor Joel Klein and SCI decided that Alan Rosenfield was a dangerous sexual predator and he, along with five other educators, were not allowed to reenter the classroom again., They were the original "Chancellor discretion" list that still exists today under the three Chancellors after Joel Klein.

Alan Rosenfeld was targeted because he was quite cantankerous and questioned many of the decisions by the new school administrators and since he was a veteran teacher and considered a "troublemaker" by the administration, they were looking for something, anything, to have Mr. Rosenfeld removed from the school.  During his more than a decade tenure in the infamous "rubber room", Alan was able to work on his vast real estate holdings and ignored the futile attempts by the DOE to leak out damaging and embarrassing information to the local newspapers about Alan and others on the "Chancellor's discretion" list.

When Alan reached the age of 66, his full Social Security age, he decided it was time to finally retire with an Final Average Salary of $100,049 and a pension of $85,000, or so reported by the New York Post.

Rest in Peace Alan with the knowledge that you beat the DOE by making lemonade out of the lemon they served you with..

Can A Terminated Teacher Lose Their Pension? The Answer Is No If They're Already Vested!



























Over the years I have been contacted by teachers who are going through their 3020-a termination hearings and the one question they have is "will I lose my pension if I am terminated"?  I have always reassured them that they do not lose their pension, no matter the outcome of their 3020-a hearing. Part of the problem is that back in the early 1980s, before the law was changed, New York City had the right to not give a pension for employees found guilty of misconduct.  The police and firefighters, with less than 20 years of service, still have that rule but to my knowledge, nobody else does.

For teachers who are vested, if they are terminated at their 3020-a hearing, they still qualify for a pension and can take it at age 55 (reduced pension) or 62/63 (full pension).  Retiree health benefits are also provided for as long as the terminated teacher worked the appropriate amount of years to qualify for the benefit (Tier 4, 5/10 years, Tier 5, 10 years, Tier 6, 15 years).

Vested teachers who are terminated and want to take their retirement contributions rather than waiting for a pension can do so.  Included would be the member contributions, the 5% interest paid on the member contributions by the City, and the money the city contributes to the Annuity Savings Accumulation Fund (ASAF).  If they have money in the Teachers Deferred Annuity Fund (TDA), they can either leave it there or take it out.

For the teachers who are not vested and are terminated, they can receive their member contributions plus the 5% interest.  However, they will not be eligible for a pension unless they secure another position with either New York State or the local governmental agencies under the New York State public employee pension plan. If you withdrawal your member contributions then you also must take out your TDA contributions as well.

Approximately 50% of the teachers never last long enough to be vested and only 33% will make it to full retirement age and this is before the Governor's proposed teacher evaluation system that will result in an increasing exodus of teachers from teaching in the City and State.  That means both the City and State can expect to see fewer teachers drawing pension benefits and  an eventual surplus in their pension funds in the next decade or two.

The bottom line is if you are terminated after your 3020-a hearing and you are vested, then you are eligible for a pension.and possible retiree health benefits.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Andrew Cuomo Is Out To Terminate Teachers.





















Governor Andrew Cuomo took a page out of the education reformer playbook and  presented his education agenda and there is little doubt that his main purpose is to terminate teachers using "junk Science", and highly questionable evaluations.  In his education agenda, the Governor wants to make the State's high stakes Common Core tests 50% of the teacher's evaluation and if the "junk Science", in the form of the Value Added Method (VAM), shows the teacher to be "ineffective" than the teacher is "ineffective", no matter how well the teacher did on the observation part.  Moreover, two consecutive "ineffectives" will result in automatic termination.

In addition, the Governor wants an independent evaluator and not principals to do the teacher classroom observations since he claims that the principals gave out too many "highly effectives" to their teachers.  Furthermore, to get an "effective" rating, teachers must be rated "effective" for both the testing and observation parts. Who pays for these independent evaluators?  The school districts, of course!

Tenure would only be earned after five consecutive years of "effective" or higher ratings.  A developing rating will not count toward tenure and could derail tenure.  Further, any teacher accused of corporal or sexual abuse of a student will be subject to an expedited 3020-a hearing, similar to what New York City uses for teachers subject to felony and major sexual misconduct charges.  That means being taken off payroll after a "probable cause" hearing and terminated by the Arbitrator in the subsequent 3020-a hearing.

Increase the charter school cap by 100 to 560 and eliminate the geographical limits that would allow for many more charter schools in New York City.  Furthermore, he proposes that the charters receive a $750 per pupil increase in funding. Ne also wants a 75% tax credit to donate scholarships to public, private, and parochial schools.  Of course the private and parochiual schools will benefit the most and take away students and funding for the public schools. For struggling schools, the Governor wants to have non-profit "turnaround specialists" to run them and override the union contract to terminate teachers.

Finally, if Andrew Cuomo gets his way, he will give the schools an extra  $1.1 billion more, or half of what education expects expect to adequately fund the schools.  The anti-teacher Daily News editorial Board applauded his speech and that tells you everything you need to know.






Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Open Market Transfer System Ensures High Teacher Turnover In Deep Poverty Schools.

























In the aftermath of the infamous 2005 contract the DOE, with the approval of the UFT leadership, developed and implemented the Open Market Transfer System (OMTS) that allowed teachers to move from one school to another without the approval of the Principal.  On the surface this appeared to be a good idea, except it came with some very serious consequences that resulted in the elimination of the seniority transfer system and the creation of the ATR crisis,   Furthermore, few highly experienced teachers are being offered positions in the OMTS, due to budgetary considerations.  However, what was not anticipated has turned out to be the most serious issue of all, and that is the high teacher turnover in struggling schools with deep poverty.

A study done in 2013 by the Research Alliance For New York City Schools found that an astonishing 66% of teachers hired between 2002 and 2009 left their middle school within five years, For high schools it was 65% and 59% for elementary schools.  The article stated that schools with high poverty students were more likely to see their recently hired teachers move to other schools.

Interestingly, the researchers, Marinell and Coca, found that the main factors in teachers leaving these schools had more to do with three issues:

  • Administrative trust and support.
  • Social and Collaborative staff.
  • Firm and fair student discipline.
By far, the most likely reason for teachers to leave their school was lack of respect for or by the school administration who failed to provide support and relevant guidance to help the teacher in the classroom.  Moreover, teachers who left complained of the school administration's lack of trustworthiness and unfair evaluation practices. Finally, if the Principal was not considered a "strong instructional leader" and was not supportive of the staff, their schools suffered from high teacher turnover.

Another problem with schools that suffered from high teacher turnover was the lack of a collaborative staff.  Many of these struggling schools hire new teachers on a continuous basis and that destabilizes the school.  These teachers lack qualified mentors and since each of these teachers are under great stress to understand the curriculum and develop classroom management skills, there is no time to share "best practices" with other teachers.  Furthermore, the constant teacher turnover does not allow for social interaction as many of these teachers spend most of their time taking required courses, making lesson plans, and doing the obscene amount of paperwork required by the DOE.  Therefore, Collegial relationships that make the terrible working conditions somewhat tolerable is lacking in those schools with high teacher turnover.

Quite a number of teachers did leave due to student discipline issues.  Unfortunately, too many students lack respect for teachers, have chronic absenteeism, and have extremely poor work habits.  In  many of these schools the school administration would have an uneven and even unfair student discipline policy that made the classroom a even more hostile environment.

In summary many teachers stayed or left based upon a combination of these factors;
  • Social working conditions.
  • The quality of school leadership.
  • The caliber of collegial relationships.
  • School culture.
The OMTS is really the "wild west" where teachers dissatisfied with their school can go on the system and get another position, regardless if the teacher was rated unsatisfactory or had their probation extended which means that struggling schools in deep poverty neighborhoods have little or no chance to retain their teaching staff since many of these schools are run by "Leadership Academy Principals" with little classroom experience and are poor instructional leaders.  Moreover, since many experienced teachers will not willingly take a position in these schools, the students are exposed to a continuing line of inexperienced teachers that will negatively affect their academic outcomes.  Until the DOE changes the ideology that allows weak and vindictive leadership to run these struggling schools, look for the recently hired teachers to leave those schools, thanks to the OMTS, a real Trojan horse when it comes to deep poverty schools.



Monday, January 19, 2015

Constant Teacher Turnover Hurts Student Academic Achievement.



























 In 2008, the nation suffered an extremely deep recession, the worst since the great depression of 1929.  College graduates found few jobs awaiting them and many turned to the more stable but relatively low paying teaching profession as a stopgap.  Alternative programs such as "Teach For America" (TFA) and for laid off professionals there were the "Teaching Fellows" (TF) programs that funneled them into the teaching profession. Many school districts offered retirement incentives to encourage higher salaried teachers to retire.  The result was that school districts across the country saw a turnover of their teaching staff. However, the teacher turnover had a big downside, the constant teacher turnover hurt student outcomes.

The picture above shows how unstable the teaching profession became, starting in the mid 2000s.  In the 1980s, most teachers viewed teaching as a life-long profession and most teachers had fifteen years of experience, were vested, and looked forward to receiving a pension. However, by the 2000s that changed dramatically, the largest group of teachers only has one year in the profession, not vested, and the majority will not be teaching before they are even vested!  For New York City teachers, 55% of the teachers have left the profession before they actually make it to ten years in 2012 and in 2013, as the recession started to ease, the number of teachers leaving the profession are increasing.

The constant teacher turnover, with inexperienced teachers, many of them not fully certified and subject to a steep learning curve themselves, destabilizes the schools and hurt student academic achievement. Why the media and politicians chose to ignore this just shows that its not what's best for the students but what is best for their ideological allies that counts.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Will New Teachers Make It To Their Retirement Age? Probably Not.


































The attack on teachers in the last two decades has been unrelenting as politicians, the media, and people like Gates, Broad, and Bloomberg want to eliminate teacher rights.  Even New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo has demanded that the teacher evaluation system be strengthened so that up to 10% of the State's teachers be rated "ineffective" and terminated.  From all sides public education is attacked as education reformers and their corporate allies want to privatize the schools, be in charters, online, or voucher schools.  With this massive onslaught against public education and the teachers who provide instruction, let's look at the chances that a newly appointed 25 year old teacher makes it to full retirement age.

A non-profit  group called the Bellwether Education Partners published a study called "Friends Without Benefits" that showed that only 19.7% of all teachers are expected to make it to their retirement age.  In some States like Maine, only 1.8% of the teachers are expected to make it to their retirement age while the best state, California expects 48.2% of their teachers to retire at their retirement age.  Even just to be "vested" and receive a minimal pension is difficult as many states.  Nationally, only 44.5% of the teachers work long enough to be vested with Maine, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, and Hawaii having only one out of four teachers being "vested".

While the numbers are pretty dismal for the States, the urban area results are downright terrible.  The Manhattan Institute published a study called "Better Pay, Fairer Pensions" that included the projected percentage of new teachers making it to their retirement age in the ten largest urban school districts. The Table below shows the expected percentage of new teachers that will make it to their retirement age.

City                           Teachers Making It To Retirement Age

New York City.....................................33%
Las Vegas..........................................20%
Philadelphia........................................7%
Los Angeles........................................6%
Honolulu.............................................5%
Washington D.C. .................................4%
Chicago..............................................4%
Houston..............................................3%
Miami.................................................1%
Tampa................................................1%

Interestingly, new teachers in New York City have a higher probably of reaching their retirement age than the State average (29.2%) which either means that the data is faulty or that the study assumes that the superior health and welfare benefits attached to the pension for New York City teachers as well as the fifteen year vesting requirement encourages many of the remaining teachers to stick it out until they reach the retirement age.  For the remaining urban areas, outside New York City and Las Vegas, the percentage of teachers reaching retirement age is dismal and in the single digits.  Even just making it to be vested is low with less than one in five teachers being vested in Washington D.C. (18.8%).

To make matters worse, in fifteen states, teachers are not eligible for Social Security and if they don't receive a full pension, then they jeopardize their retirement.  This is a dilemma and why the education reformers like the "fifth columnist" Educators for Excellence and the Conservative Manhattan Institute advocates for a portable pension system (401K) for teachers.  However, teaching has never been a short-term job and despite the many roadblocks that politicians and their education reformer allies try to impose on the teaching profession, it still should remain as a life-long position, complete with retirement benefits and adequate health care.

In New York City, even if you are to believe that 33% of the new Tier VI teachers will make it to their full retirement age of 63 (I don't), that means that 67% will have left the system before reaching the holy grail, a properly funded pension.