We all know that Joel Klein quit as Chancellor for the New York City Public Schools but the real question is why did he quit? The answer he gave was that after eight years it was time to move on as he accomplished his education reforms. However, I believe that the real reason that Joel Klein is leaving was his recent differences with Mayor Michael Bloomberg when it came to running the New York City Schools during a time of recession and budget cuts. A contributing factor was the evaporation of academic gains associated with the 2010 New York State tests and Klein’s failure to narrow the racial/income academic achievement gap during his tenure.
Joel Klein was the architect of the overcrowding of the “rubber rooms” (over 800 at one point) and the ATR crises (2,400) as he was willing to spend upwards of $240 million dollars (not including benefits) to pull and leave teachers outside the classroom. His plan was to force senior and highly-paid teachers out of the school system by closing schools and filing charges based upon frivolous actions. Furthermore, by using a one-size-fits-all teaching method (the Workshop Model) and the Peer Intervention Program Plus (PIP+) charges of teacher incompetence rose dramatically and is now resulting in many teachers being forced to resign or be fired in their 3020-a hearings. Moreover, under Joel Klein’s Administration, ageism and salary was a major consideration in filling 3020-a charges and the majority of “rubber room” iinmates were over 50 years old and making at least $70,000 yearly. This was a major part of Joel Klein’s “education on the cheap” policy with the aim of having an inexperienced and replaceable teaching staff that would not cost the City pensions and retiree health benefits. Therefore, Joel Klein’s attack on the experienced teaching force was consistent with Mayor Bloomberg’s long-term goals to reduce retiree costs and if it meant some inefficiency in the short-term , so be it.
Unfortunately, for Joel Klein the recession came along in 2008 and the City saw that their budget had to be reduced to account for the reduction in State & Federal aid as well as a shrinking tax base. The result was reductions in the Department of Education budget and the City started to question the DOE on not only the allocation of funds at Tweed but the necessity of wasting over 200 million dollars yearly on teachers not in the classroom. The increasingly divergent views between the City and Tweed showed up in the hiring freeze the City imposed on the Department of Education that made it nearly impossible to hire “newbie teachers” unless it was a shortage area. This freeze put pressure on Tweed and they eventually told principals to hire the ATRs and not wait for the freeze to end. This was a reversal of Tweed’s previous policy to encourage principals to hire “newbie teachers” and to ensure that approach, Joel Klein imposed the “fair student funding formula” that discouraged principals from hiring senior teachers in the schools. This upset Joel Klein’s plans to impose an ATR time limit in the next contract and further rid the system of senior teachers which was gaining traction in the media. However, the City, needing to save money,negotiated with the union to eliminate the “rubber rooms” and forced Joel Klein to support the agreement. The result is that principals could no longer remove a teacher from their school and the teacher stays in the school and on the Principal’s budget. The “rubber room agreement“ forced the DOE to settle many cases and the influx of freed teachers from the “rubber rooms” made it unnecessary to hire the “newbie teachers” Joel Klein wants. Mayor Bloomberg could no longer support Joel Klein’s use of hundreds of millions of dollars to warehousing teachers and non-teaching ATRs and forced Tweed to find a cost-effective way to utilize the teachers. In Mayor Bloomberg’s mind the short-term need vastly outweigh the long-term goals during a time of fiscal crises. To top it off, the Mayor now proposes to layoff up to 6,000 teachers already in the system and under the "last in first out" seniority system it will eliminate the pride and joy of Joel Klein to bring in more inexpensive teachers.
Finally, the lack of real student academic achievement has embarrassed the Mayor and the blame has to be placed on one person. Chancellor Joel Klein who said time and again we are narrowing the income/racial achievement gap and raising test scores. All that vanished with the results of the 2010 New York State tests which showed no real improvement since Joel Klein’s tenure began in 2002..
It should be very interesting if the real story of Joel Klein’s departure comes out but I do expect that when it does it will due to the changed policy differences between the Mayor and Chancellor because of the recession.