Saturday, December 04, 2010
What will Happen To The ATRs Now, When In The Past Principals Wouldn't Hire Them At Sale Prices?
The "ATR agreement" has expired in which smart and savvy principals can pick up an experienced teacher for the cost of a "newbie teacher" on their school budget. Imagine, picking up a veteran teacher who already has classroom management skills and understands the curriculum without paying the full salary. What principal would not jump at the chance? Apparently quite a few principals did not take Tweed up on their offer and unbelievably the school system still has 1,232 ATRs. Why would principals not want to pick up experienced teachers at bargain basement prices? Simple, the principals are not doing what is best for the students but what is best for themselves. This is called "Principal first and children last" The primary reasons that principals did not want ATRs in their schools is based upon three factors. Principal control of their schools, funding options, and discrimination associated with the ATR label. Let's look at the three issues in more detail.
Control Of The School:
Under the Joel Klein Administration, the principals were treated as the CEO of their schools and given independence on how to spend the money allocated to the school. Unfortunantly, for the parents, students, and staff, many of the principals did not allocate the school funds wisely. This especially true of the "Leadership Academy principals" who seem to think that funding their "pet projects" was more important then class size considerations. Tweed publicly stated that the principals are doing what's best for their schools. However, Tweed allowed the principals to ignore targeted money to reduce class size and use the scarce funds as they saw fit and it was in many cases what was best for the principals and not what was best for the schools.
It is no secret that the schools have seen significant reductions in school funding and in some cases, up to 12% less than two years ago and further reductions are expected This has resulted in many schools cutting out after school programs and many clubs due to lack of funding. To further hamstrung the principals, Tweed came up with the "fair student funding fiasco" that severely limited principals from hiring highly qualified teachers due to their high salaries. Instead many principals hired cheaper and inexperienced teachers because of the budget limitations imposed by the "fair student funding fiasco". One frustrated Principal told me a story about how he wanted to hire a Math teacher who he worked with as the Math AP in another school but could not carry his salary on his payroll due to the "fair student funding fiasco". When I asked him why he just didn't hire a Math teacher from the ATR list, he just frowned and said "that the ATRs are failed teachers". That brings me to the ATR discrimination issue.
Even the union leadership knows that there is discrimination when teachers are ATRs. How many times did we hear Tweed claim that the ATRs are "lazy, unwanted, and are failed teachers" that nobody wants. What is not said is the ageism issue. Many of the ATRs are older teachers and if you don't think they are being discriminated against due to their age? I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. Remember, the age discrimination lawsuit against the DOE was dropped by Randi Weingarten as a condition of the "ATR Agreement". Nowhere does Tweed bring up the fact they have closed hundreds of schools, starved others by reducing funding and discouraged good students from going to "targeted schools" (See Jamaica High School) and Here, allowed principals to file frivolous charges to remove teachers from their schools, and stopped the Districts from placing excessed teachers in schools before "newbie teachers" can be hired. The ATR crises is entirely the creation of Joel Klein who wanted a cheaper and expendable teaching staff at the expense of students and experienced teachers.
What Happens Now?:
The union leadership is trying to negotiate an extension of the "ATR Agreement". However, Tweed shows little interest in doing this. Since it will take the rest of the school year for Chancellor-elect Cathie Black to come up to speed on this issue, I see an extended period of uncertainty on any resolution of the ATR crises. I predict that the existing ATRs will just be moved next year to another school. Hopefully, the "ATR Agreement" is renewed and principals will realize that they must hire the ATRs since the hiring freeze will continue through the 2011-2012 school year. Otherwise, nothing will change for the ATRs.
I take my union leadership's word that they will never agree to an ATR time limit and believe that the union will not negotiate on such a time limit since this would result in the erosion of teacher due process and start the teachers down a slippery slope in eliminating seniority and tenure protection, a third rail for union issues. Just see what happened in Chicago and Washington D.C. when the leadership fails to protect their members. Regardless, look for Tweed to demand a time limit and their media mouthpieces echo it. However, our union will easily resist such attempts to reduce tenure protections, backed by all the unions. Yes, if it was just our union, maybe they would cave but it is all of NYSUT and the other Civil Services unions who supply the backbone on this issue. Therefore, look for Tweed to eventually surrender on the ATR issue and given the recession and budget problems, force principals to select ATRs for all vacancies.....I hope.