Saturday, December 19, 2009
My Response To Mayor Bloomberg's Speech On The "Rubber Room" Overcrowding, The ATR Crises, And Tenure Part 2: The ATR Crises
The ATR crises was created by Chancellor Joel Klein and his non-educator cronies in a futile attempt to force highly paid senior teachers out of the system. I would like to say our union played no part in the ATR crises but they did when they not only gave up the seniority transfer system but allowed the DOE to ignore excessed teachers and encourage principals to hire lower paid "newbie teachers" who had no classroom experience instead. In fact, I complained years ago that our union actually encouraged the recruitment over retention policy by the DOE by buying into new teacher initiatives such as subsidized mortgages and apartments for the "newbie teachers". By contrast, no such programs were available to experienced teachers who struggled to provide their families with affordable housing and a decent salary in our high cost of living region. In fact, the terrible 2005 contract gave the most benefit to the "newbie teachers" by dramatically raising their salaries at the expense of the experienced teacher. However, the legacy of the 2005 contract was an explosion of ATRs, many of them senior teachers with a long resume of outstanding service.
Since 2003 Bloomberg and Klein have started a crusade to try to close schools and replace them with smaller themed or charter schools and this tactic has been very successful. It does not matter that the new schools opened by the DOE do not show any significant progress once the carefully screened first two student classes leave these schools. When the small schools are required to accept ELL, special education, and "at risk" students, the phony academic progress in the first two years of the school's existence disappears. The long-term result of the school closing crusade is an ever increasing excessed teacher population called ATRs. Presently, there are over 1,300 ATRs and with 20 more schools closing next year and with a 1.5% budget reduction starting in February as well as an additional 2.5% budget reduction next school year(excluding any State education cuts) look for the ATR figure to rise above the 2,000 person mark. Bloomberg & Klein's solution to the ATR crises? Fire them after being an ATR for one school year if they cannot get a permanent classroom position.
Every time the union tries to strike an agreement with the DOE on the ATR problem, the DOE seems to simply ignore the agreement and very few ATRs are given an actual classroom position. Interestingly, there were 1,354 ATRs and 586 vacancies in mid-October with the DOE already granting 125 exemptions. However, despite the deadline passing as of October 31, 2009 the DOE has refused to release how many vacancies were given exemptions and how many ATRs were hired for the vacancies. The only information that was leaked out was that 14 schools had their vacancies taken away from their budget. It will interesting to see when Gotham Schools obtain the numbers and how many vacancies received an exemption. I do suspect that our union does know what happened to the vacancies based upon comments by acting President, Mike (call me Michael) Mulgrew but are not prepared to release them.
The ATR population are dominated by senior teachers who in many cases were not selected by the small schools replacing the closing large school. The reasons are simple, it is about control and the budget, it is not what is best for the children. Many of the new small schools have an inexperienced Principal and a teaching staff of nontenured teachers who may or may not last the school year and more than half of them will not be teaching in the school five years down the road. I call this "children last" because if Bloomberg and Klein really cared about the children, they would demand that the principals hire experienced teachers, with good classroom management skills, a quality teacher, and would require the principals to hire what is best for the students not what is best for them.
Solving the ATR crises is very easy. The DOE must hire excessed teachers in the subject area before "newbie teachers" are hired, no exemptions, waivers, or other excuses. Once this simple measure is implemented, the problem will disappear and the DOE can save 120 million dollars a year. A win-win situation for everybody. Except for the insecure and vindictive Principal and his/her Tweed allies.