Tuesday, March 03, 2015

The Tax Advantages By Contributing To The TDA.

In my travels to various schools, I am shocked to find out how little teachers know about the benefits in contributing to their Tax Deferred Annuity Fund (TDA).  Some teachers know that the TDA includes various stock funds, a bond fund, and a fixed income fund that pays 7% in annual interest.  However, when it comes to understanding that contributing to the TDA not only allows the money to accumulate tax deferred (no money is taxed until you decide to take the money out) but also reduces the present income taxes! Therefore, I decided to take a look at two teachers, one contributes to her TDA while the other does not.

Example: There are two teachers, both single, living in New York City, and each making $80,000 a year.  Teacher #1 does not contribute to the TDA while teacher #2 contributes a modest $200 a paycheck to the TDA that reduces her taxable income by $4,800 to $75,200.

Teacher #1:  Salary $80,000,   Federal Tax = 20% or $15,863
                                           NYS Tax    = 6.65% or $5,320
                                           NYC Tax    = 3.65% or $2,800
                                           Total Tax  =30.30% or $23,983

Teacher #2:  Salary $80,000    Federal Tax = 18% or $14,663
                                           NYS Tax     = 6.45% or $4,521
                                           NYC Tax     = 3.30% or $2,625
                                           Total Tax   =27.75% or $22,909

The tax rates come from the Federal, State, and City tax tables and shows that by contributing to the TDA, the teacher reduces her effective income tax by 2.55% and more importantly, saves her approximately $1,074 in Federal, State, and City income taxes.  Now you know why you should contribute to your TDA, it reduces the amount of taxes you pay!

Update:  Thanks to one of my commenters, he/she pointed out that our TDA is exempt from State and Local taxes as well when we withdraw it as long as you live in New York State.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Why Marriage Is Good For The Entire Family.

In our society fewer people are getting married and many children are being raised in a one parent (mainly mother) household.  While this troubling trend has become more acceptable in Western society, its not, for the most part, best for the family unit.  Long-term marriage offers many advantages when compared to unmarried family units.  These advantages are as follows:

  • Financial
  • Educational
  • Behavioral
  • Health
  • Stability
When two parents are working, this gives greater financial support to the family and provides two positive working role models for the children to learn from.  Study after study shows that children from dual parent households do better in school than children from single parent households. In a two parent family, usually one, mainly the male, will be the disciplinarian while the other, usually the female,  being the nurturer and the children learn the various coping skills necessary to survive and thrive which is usually extended to their entire social world.  Finally, a two parent household provides financial, health, emotional, and educational stability to the family unit. Which greatly reduces the effects of poverty.

A committed relationship that two adults share with each other, under the same roof, gives their children a "head start" in being successful.  It doesn't matter if its between a man and woman or a same sex couple.  The bottom line is that their children will be better for it.

An interesting study shows that men benefit greatly when marrying and staying with a women.  It seems that married men enjoy better health and live longer since the women usually prods the man to take better care of themselves and go to the doctor when feeling poorly. Marriage also benefits women who feel they have a partner that lends them emotional support and giving them the feeling of responsibility in keeping their partner healthy.

It appears, for the most part, a long-term stable marriage benefits the entire family.  Too bad we seem to be going into an opposite direction when it comes to marriage. This might be one of the areas that we need to explore and reverse the trend if we are to reduce poverty and see better academic outcomes for the children.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Accountability Is Absent At The DOE

 ATRs are usually notified by the DOE on Thursday, the week before their new school placement.  This was agreed upon with the union to give the ATRs a chance to contact the school for their scheduled times to report and whether there is parking available.  However, many of the ATRs were not notified of their placement until Friday after 4pm, too late to contact the school.   That means some ATRs will show up too early for a late schedule or too late if they are assigned an early schedule and have time deducted from their CAR.  Who was responsible for this snafu?  The DOE, of course.  However, will anybody at the DOE be disciplined for their incompetence?  Don't bet on that happening.

Apparently, accountability are for teachers, if an ATR misses two mandatory interviews, they are fired.  However, when somebody at the Central Bureaucracy screws up, they are not held accountable for their incompetence.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Why Are Teachers Taking More Days Off? Its The Increased Stress And Lower Morale Stupid!


The New York Post published an article that showed an astonishing 16% of the teachers took eleven or more days off during the 2013-14 school year.  The DOE and the union couldn't explain the 10% increase in teachers taking more than the contractual ten sick days off.  Of course the clueless Eric Nadelstern had his own idea and blamed in on retiring teachers who decided to take the extra days off.  However, the truth is that the increasing stress of teaching in the classroom and the demonetization of teachers by the media and our Governor has added to that stress. The result is morale for New York City teachers is probably at an all time low and that's why teachers are taking more sick days than they are allowed in any one school year.

When Bill de Blasio became Mayor and appointed Carmen Farina as Chancellor, UFT President Michael Mulgrew proclaimed that there was a different tone out of Tweed.  However, its still the "gotcha mentality" when it comes to the classroom.  Administrators are still dumping outrageous amount of paperwork on teachers, questioning their scholarship when teachers don't pass enough of their students, and failing to change much of the Bloomberg/Klein inspired policies that make teaching in the classroom a hostile environment.

School after school I travel to, the teachers tell me the same thing.  "I can't wait to get enough years in the system so I can retire".   While all the teachers I encounter (there are a few exceptions) really care about the students, they just can't take the abuse anymore as the mind numbing mandates that emanate out of the DOE and implemented by the school administration makes going to work a chore.  Moreover, its no fun for the classroom teacher who must spend their own money on supplies and even copying paper not to mention the totally ridiculous professional development that wastes our time for 90 minutes every Monday and 60 minutes every Tuesday. Finally, having the largest class sizes in the State only adds to the already stressful classroom environment as Governor Cuomo has shorted the City $2.5 billion dollars that was to reduce class sizes.

If the City and Union wants to reduce the amount of "sick time" teachers take, then make the classroom a less stressful and hostile place by providing the necessary resources, reduce class size, and most importantly, let teachers teach that best help their students rather than being yanked around by the DOE mandates that are passed down to the schools that simply add unnecessary paperwork and added stress to the job.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Just Another Case Of The DOE Double Standard When Disciplining Principals.

The New York Post published an article about how Staten Island Principal Linda Hill.  Yes, that Linda Hill who has a very close relationship with  Chancellor Carmen Farina.  Apparently, she was found to have "double dipped".  Ms. Hill was accused of falsely obtaining per session money for one position while, at the same time, receiving money for another job after school that she was in charge of.  Teacher and Chapter Leader, Francesco Portelos blew the whistle on her and forced the reluctant DOE to start an investigation on the "double dipping".  To retaliate, Principal Hill had Mr. Portelos sent to the "rubber room" for two years until his case was resolved. Mr. Portelos has filed a federal lawsuit against Linda Hill and the DOE for retaliation and it was in this lawsuit that Principal Hill admitted to the "double dipping" and was waiting for the DOE to determine the discipline, if any.

What happened to the DOE investigation of Principal Hill you ask?  Well, it was apparently completed in 2013 and surprise, surprise, the DOE refuses to release the report.  More importantly,  Principal Hill has not had to pay the money back or was subject to any discipline, despite her admitting to "double dipping".  If a teacher did what Principal Hill did,  the teacher would be charged with "theft of service"  and the DOE would file 3020-a charges against the teacher. Instead, in showing her support of Linda Hill,  Chancellor Carmen Farina visited the school as the first school in Staten Island she visited as Chancellor.

For more information on Principal Linda Hill please read my post on her Here   Also read educator fights back blog for even more information on the alleged misdeeds of Principal Hill. This is yet another case of the DOE "double standard" when disciplining (lack of) administrators which started under the Bloomberg administration and continues under Bill de Blasio. I guess its good to have had the Chancellor as your mentor.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

If I Became The Chancellor Of The New York City Schools.

Readers of my blog know how critical I have been about the job Carmen Farina has done as Chancellor of the New York City schools.  To say she has been a disappointment, is putting it mildly. Last month a DOE mid-level official and I had a pleasant conversation on the future of the public schools and this official asked me a simple question.  "What would you change as Chancellor"?  That got me thinking of what would I do as Chancellor of the New York City schools?  If I was Chancellor, here is what I would try to change.

Clean house at the DOE:  First, and foremost, I would remove the "Bloomberg 300" that Carmen Farina left in place in policy making positions.  Their removal is necessary if we are to eradicate the Bloomberg ideology that is imprinted throughout the DOE.  Moreover, I would severely downsized the accountability and legal departments.

Eliminate fair student funding:  The fair student funding fiasco is a failure and forces principals to hire the "cheapest and not the best teachers" for their schools.  Reinstall the unit method that requires DOE Central to allocate staff to each school, based upon their student population, without salary being a consideration.  Principals would no longer have any incentive to hire cheap since it does not come out of their budget.

Reduce the Bureaucratic Bloat at the DOE:  In addition to reducing the accountability and legal departments, I would hire a company to evaluate and eliminate redundant and unnecessary positions within the DOE.   The money saved will be allocated to the schools to hire additional staff, reduce class sizes, and provide extra resources to the schools.

Reevaluate principals:  There are just too many principals who are not capable to collaborate with their staff and are not providing the proper leadership to help their students. I would work with the newly empowered Superintendents and the school staff to determine which principals should stay and whom should leave.  I would totally eliminate the "Leadership Academy" and future principals will come from the ranks and who were successful long-term classroom teachers and assistant principals.

Eliminate the ATR issue:  A priority will be to place the ATRs back into the classroom as quickly as possible.  All vacancies in the District will not be filled until the ATRs in that District are placed.  To ensure that there is truly mutual consent, the ATR and Principal would both need to agree to the placement.  If both agree that its been a good fit, then the ATR will be appointed to the school the following year. This will save the DOE $150 million dollars annually and supply schools with experienced teachers.

Stop the use of uncertified teachers:  Too many schools are using teachers not certified in subjects they are instructing students in.  This will stop with the end of the fair student funding since schools will have the appropriate units to hire qualified staff, without having to consider salary.

Reestablish the "600 schools":  For students that disrupt the schools with repeated behavioral actions, its time to send them to schools where they can still receive an education but with a staff that is experienced in handling behaviorally challenged students.  Obviously the school administration and staff should be paid a pensionable stipend for working in these schools.

No co-locations with public schools:  If charter schools need space, let them find and fund it themselves or force the State to pay for the space.

I'm sure there's more, but these would be my priorities as the next Chancellor of the New York City public schools.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Chancellor Carmen Farina Fails To Remove Problem Principals.

When Bill de Blasio became Mayor of New York City, many teachers were hoping for massive changes at Tweed.  The antagonistic tone coming out of the DOE would be replaced with a collaborative atmosphere that would result in positive changes to the classrooms and help the City's public school students.  However, under the disappointing Chancellor, Carmen Farina, little has changed at the school level.

Under Carmen Farina's tenure, school budgets remain frozen at levels 14% less than in 2008.  The continuation of the "fair student funding" that encourages principals to hire the "cheapest and not the best" teachers for their schools.  No reduction in the large class sizes that are the largest in the State. No change in the overwhelming paperwork requirements used by Tweed for data mining and the wasting of over $150 million dollars by keeping ATRs out of the classroom, a continuation of the punitive and ideological Bloomberg/Klein policies.  However, the worst aspect of Carmen Farina's Chancellorship was her failure to "clean house" both at the DOE and especially the large group (300) of "Leadership Academy principals" that she claimed shouldn't be running their schools.

Throughout the last few years many of these principals have found themselves in trouble but yet survived their sham or nonexistent DOE investigation to continue to run their schools into the ground.  Here is a partial list of some of these principals who made the newspapers because of their questionable actions.

Moreover, here are other school administrators that appear to be in serious need of remediation.
Is it any wonder that principals are happy with Carmen Farina as Chancellor?  Under the disappointing Chancellor, its still a "double standard" and when that issue is added to her failure to remove the Tweed 300 from policy making positions, it shows that for the classroom teacher its DOE business as usual and that's bad.

update:  Read the New York Post article on the admitted "double dipping" by Linda Hill and yes, the Chancellor still kept her on as Principal! Unbelievable!