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.


Anonymous said...

It may be that an effective freeze until placement is complete is the best way to get current ATRs placed, but

(1) it's not easy. The DoE is at war with teachers, and seems happy to make a mess and blame it on us

(2) the systematic damage which created the ATR pool is still in place: Open-market hiring, end of seniority and SBO transfers, 'fair' student funding, permanent reorganization including restructuring and school closings.

Anything that alleviates the current situation, including your proposal (well, not just yours, but you made it here) is positive. But the DOE will be hostile, and even if we shrink the pool, they sit poised and ready to refill it.

It's going to take more than good negotiators to fight back.


Pissedoffteacher said...

The union and the DOE are playing head games with the ATRs, forcing them to worry about even having jobs. It is an awful situation with no winners in sight.

NYC Educator said...

In my opinion, saving the money is not the paramount goal of Bloomberg and co., or this situation would have been resolved years ago. In fact, it would not have been created at all.

I think they like using the ATR teachers as scapegoats--demagogues always need scapegoats. And if you believe, as I do, their ultimate goal is being able to fire teachers at will for any or no reason, you may believe things are not as bad, for them, as they are for us.

And that's fine with them. What do they care about taxpayer money as long as they can blame someone else for it?

Anonymous said...

The most apropriate response to the ATR situation and the Closing of Schools is to STRIKE!!

Pure and simple. Take money from the union to support striking teachers and challenge the Taylor laws.

Chaz said...

With the exception of Anon: I gree with all of you. If Tweed really want to solve the ATR crises they could easiierly do so by imposing a hiring freeze until the excessed teachers are placed. The fact they refuse to do this says it all. They have no interest in resolving the problem they created. Their solution is to whine to the media.


As for striking. his is not a realistic option and would play into the hands of Bloomberg and Klein. If you are a reader of my blog you would know there are better ways to deal with Tweed.

Anonymous said...

To Anon 1:20 p.m.

It is impertive that you understand the tremendous impact a strike would have on all the members.

The Taylor Law prohibits state and city employees to strike. Not only does it cost the employees 2 days of pay for each day of strike, and it also eliminates all the agreements made in the contract between the city and the UFT. Because of the Taylor Law, our expired contract continues to exist until contract negotiations are settled. No one should ever be in favor of a strike especially if the members lose money and rights to collective bargaining.

The UFT have a strong cadre of intelligent and clever members and we will find a better way of dealing with the mayor, the chancellor and Tweed.

OTE admin said...

If school districts abolish tenure, and ALL teachers are "at-will" employees, then disclosure questions that are on every school district job application in the United States need to outlawed. Of course, these "reformers" would keep those questions in simply so they can continue to chew up and spit out teachers until college students get a clue and AVOID teaching like the plague.

Chaz said...

I agree with Anon. It is certainly not in our interest to strike and lose all our contract protections. By calling for a strike just plays into the hands of Bloomberg & Klein.

Susan. Welcome to New York City education blogosphere.

VEGA said...

I was an ATR all of last year and into the first three weeks of this year. I was hired under the ATR agreement to fill a scheduling void. I do, however, believe if the void is eliminated, so will I back to the ATR pool. Although greatful, I am vocal about my support of ICE. I other words a target. I have two and a half years to go until retirment. I signed the 55/25 and intend to make it naturally or in Fed court. If teachers are smart they will get together now and stop the genocide whether or not they are an ATR. Hopefully the complacent are learning based on the recent closings.

Anonymous said...

What leverage does an organized labor union have if it doesn't strike? It won the TWU some repect when they struck.
The Europeans do it and given the circumstances, so should we.
Those who don't do something drastic will be condemmned to be phased out in the flurry of school closings.
All this hogwash about collaboration just doesn't protect the teachers interests.
Bloomberg will eventually succeed in making a horrendous situation worse.
This is not he time to act like sheep listening to the drivel coming out of the union patronage system.
Angry Nog

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Anonymous said...

What better way to deal with our opressors? So far the UFT hasn't dealt with anything except to screw it's own members.
Through it's Vichy style collaboration the UFT HAS played in to the midget dictators hands.
Hey Mikey, all that money and you are stil a little shit of a dwarf.
Angry Nog