Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Chancellor Carmen Farina's Failure To Eliminate The Bloomberg Era Policies Is Her Failure As A Chancellor.

It has been over three years since Carmen Farina took over as Chancellor of the New York City School System and many of her promises to overhaul the New York City Public Schools and eliminate the Bloomberg era policies have been found to be lacking.  In fact, as a Deputy Chancellor under Joel Klein she is more the problem than the solution. Let's go over some of her statements and see if things really changed?

Class Size Reduction
One of Mayor de Blasio's campaign promises was to reduce class sizes.  However, since Carmen Farina took over as Chancellor not only has class sizes not been reduced, but actually increased, especially in the K-2 grades.

Removing Principals
Carmen Farina once told an audience that there were 400 principals that shouldn't be running their schools.  However, she has failed to remove more than a handful of these failing principals.  In fact, she and her cronies protect the worst of the worst.

Quality ATRs
The Chancellor was quoted by the Daily News that she will vastly reduce the ATR pool by either terminating them or place quality ATRs back into the classroom.  However, she has failed to use her authority to convince principals to hire them.  In fact, she has made little or no effort to penalize principals who hire and use uncertidfied teachers to instruct in core subject areas like English, Math, Science, and Social Studies.  Moreover, many schools give teachers a "sixth period" rather than hire a needed teacher.  The result is that the ATR pool has remained stable during her tenure as Chancellor.

Fair Student Funding
One of the most destructive Bloomberg era policy is the school-based fair student funding that incentivizes principals to hire the cheapest and not the best teachers for their school. Yet, after three years the Chancellor has not eliminated the fair student funding formula from the schools.  The result is a 1,400 ATR pool of excessed teachers without a classroom costing the DOE over $100 million dollars annually. A colossal waste of money and talent.

Administrative Bloat At DOE Central
While school budgets re frozen and school resources are scarce.  DOE Central continues to expand. The New York Post reported that by next school year it will have almost tripled since Bill de Blasio took over. While it was bloated during the Bloomberg years its become even more so under the Chancellor.

Failed to Clean House at Tweed
Carmen Farina had promised that she would bring with her a new policy of collaboration between the DOE and schools.  However, she retained 80% of the Bloomberg era policymakers.  The result is that the schools have experienced essentially frozen budgets, no reduction in paperwork, despite promises to the contrary, and  a "gotcha" mentality between administrators and staff.  The new tone promised by UFT President Michael Mulgrew is simply the same old song when it comes to the New York City Public School classroom.

Renewal Schools
The Chancellor's vaulted Renewal School program is a failure with minimal benchmarks that over half cannot achieve and the Chancellor's claim  that only "highly effective teachers" will be hired at the schools ended up to be a bunch of "newbies" instead.  Worse she spends millions of dollars on layers of bloated bureaucracy and has hired some very questionable people to run the program. In today's Daily News there was a gang fight at Richmond Hills High School, one of the Renewal Schools.

Resolving The ATR Issue
Carmen Farina once told Chalkbeat that she will resolve the ATR situation once and for all but has simply nibbled at the edges with no significant impact.  Her failure to resolve the ATR issue is a black mark on her and the Mayor's administration.

The bottom line, Chancellor Carmen Farina lives in a fantasyland and she has consistently failed to live up to her promises to remake the New York City School System while all the ills of the Bloomberg era still exist to date.

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Secretive C-30 Selection Process - The Reason Why We Have So Many Terrible Principals.

I have written about the bad principals I have encountered, read, or heard about, mostly in Queens and in the high schools. I also discussed the weakest link in the system, the Superintendents selected by Chancellor Carmen Farina to run the school districts. Far too many of them were awarded their position, based on cronyism and not competence.  Just read about these two Superintendents, Juan Mendez and Amiee Horowitz, The question is how can so many terrible principals land their position without the school staff and the community having any meaningful input in the selection?

The answer is the secretive and unaccountable C-30 selection process.  First, the Superintendent selects the five candidates that the C-30 selection committee will interview.  That's right, the Superintendent makes the decision on who to interview not the selection committee.  How the Superintendent selects the five candidates is also clouded in secrecy but I would guess its primarily based on favoritism and cronyism and not educational excellence.

If that is not bad enough, the C-30 committee's selection is only advisory and the final decision is made by the Superintendent.  In fact, Principal Judy Henry was ranked fourth out of five candidates by the Gateway To The Health Sciences C-30 selection committee but Superintendent Juan Mendez selected Judy Henry as Principal of the school anyway.  More about Judy Henry can be found Here.  For many of the Superintendents, the C-30 selection process is simply a fig leaf for the unaccountable Superintendents who put their favorites in charge of the schools.  Just look at this post! Further, just read Ed Notes Online about the disaster Principal Monika Garg has made of CPE1 in Manhattan.  Read what she has done to the staff at the school. What Superintendent allowed this to happen?

.By contrast in Russia and many other countries the school staff selects the Principal by a democratic vote.  This allows for more effective collaboration between school leaders and staff and  leads to better student academic achievement. That's not the case when it comes to the New York City Public Schools.

Unfortunately,  in the New York City Public School System the Chancellor and her cronies are more interested in protecting each other and scratching each others back then in selecting the best administrators for the schools.  Please read the Daily News Opinion piece by the Queens Borough President Melinda Katz about what's wrong with the C-30 selection process for principals. In the New York City Public Schools its children last....Always when it comes to selecting the best administrators to run the schools.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Anoither Case Of The DOE Double Standard When Disciplining Administrators - Santiago Taveras.

In today's News York Post, embattled Principal Santiago Taveras of Dewitt Clinton High School in the Bronx has officially lost his position as Principal due to academic misconduct but will still earn $149,826 as an academic support specialist at the DOE's Bronx field office.  If Mr. Taveras was a staff member, he would have been charged under 3020-a and the DOE would ask for termination.  Another case of the DOE's "Double Standard"when disciplining administrators for misconduct.

Santiago Taveras has been accused by a school source in his SCI report of changing grades of up to 900 students, from failing to passing, without the approval of his teachers.  Apparently, SCI only reviewed four cases from the accusation and dumped the rest back into the DOE's lap who did not confirm or deny the accusation.  However, they did remove Mr. Taveras as Principal so there apparently is some credence to the accusation.   The SCI report did substantiate the four cases of grade fixing and recommended the following:

“very serious.” He recommended that “appropriate and significant disciplinary action be taken against Mr. Taveras, and that he be advised that similar administrative failures on his part, in the future, may lead to suspension or termination of employment with the D.O.E.”

Mr Taveras has been involved in other unseemly actions. He was the point person in closing many of the large comprehensive high schools as Deputy Chancellor under Michael Bloomberg,  Next, as Principal of DeWitt Clinton High School he built a personal shower that the DOE first found to be appropriate than under media scrutiny, quietly had the shower dismantled and removed.

Finally,  Mr, Taveras targeted teachers, especially veteran teachers,. during his time as Principal at DeWitt Clinton.  He was known to harass teachers and gave 8% of his teacher "ineffective".  Compared to the 1% ineffective grade citywide.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Charter Sector High Schools Are The Stepchildren Of The NYC School System

One of the little known issues in the New York City schools is how terrible most of the charter sector high schools are when it comes to receiving a quality education. This post will discuss the many shortcomings that the New York City charter high schools suffer from.

Student Body:
Many of the students have previously struggled in public schools and see the charter high school as a "second chance" to continue their education.  In far too many cases these charter high schools are more like the "transfer schools" than a traditional public high school.  In talking to teachers who work or have worked in charter high schools, they tell me that the students have academic problems and many of them have some sort of disability. Academic achievement is simply a joke in many cases.

Teacher Turnover:
All the charter high schools suffer from extremely high teacher turnover.  It is not unusual for students to have had three or more teachers from the beginning to the end of the school year.  In one charter high school, I was told that five different teachers were used last school year for a Math class.  It's not unusual for many of the charter high schools to have uncertified teachers instructing students, especially in Math and Science.  In one school I was told that a 22 year old "newbie" English teacher, fresh out of Teach For America, was hired to teach a Regents Science course.

Unstable Administration:
Many of the charter high school administrators are new to their administrative role and hiring and firing is a common occurrence, even during the school year. At best, administrative quality is uneven and at worst incompetent. Is it little wonder that poor administration goes hand in hand with high teacher turnover and poor academic student achievement.

Funding Uncertainties:
Contrary to what many of us think, charter high schools suffer from tight budgets, lack of resources, and technology issues.  This is especially true for profit-making organizations that run the school.   These private charters must turn a profit for their hedge fund sponsors or risk being closed.  Therefore, the bottom line must be met and its not education.  Moreover, the people above the school administration are usually business people and have no experience in education so there is almost always a disconnect between the school academic goals and the profit obsessed board that oversees the school, usually with disastrous results.

Lack of Community Roots:
Almost all charter high schools have no roots in the community they reside in and many of the students do not live in the community.  Without the community support and a reason to embrace the school by the neighborhood, it makes it very difficult for the school to be able to survive long-term and almost impossible to thrive as an educational entity.

The bottom line is that the charter highs schools are the stepchild of not only the New York City charter schools but the entire educational system and the joke is on the students who end up at these schools looking for a quality education..

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

UFT Members And The Cumulative Absence Reserve.

There seems to be some confusion about our Cumulative Absence Reserve (CAR) and how school administrators try to dictate how they are used.  This post will try to clear up the many misconceptions about our CAR.

First, all UFT members get ten sick days a school year, or one per month credited on the 16th of the school month.  Up to three of the days can be used for personal business but must be approved by the Principal. Teachers, Guidance Counselors, and Social Workers can have a negative CAR of up to 20 days but must reimburse the DOE if they are still negative at the time they retire, resign, or get terminated.

Second, a common misconception is that if you take three consecutive sick days, you must have medical documentation (a doctor's note) proving you were ill.  The truth is that you do not need any medical documentation for the absences and in fact, the UFT won an arbitration that allows the UFT member to take ten consecutive days without providing medical documentation. Yet, school after school, the administration insists on doctor's note for an absence.  My take is that if you have one then humor them and give it to them, if you don't, that's too bad,  they cannot insist on one.

Third, if you exhaust your CAR and go over negative twenty, it is leave without pay.  Moreover, you must notify your school of any long-term absence over 20 days.  Otherwise, the DOE will assume you have voluntarily resigned and getting your position back is extremely difficult.

Fourth, if you use your CAR days as terminal leave and decide not to retire before you exhaust them, you will be sent to the ATR pool, unless your Principal wants you back.

Fifth, ATRs who take ten or more sick days will automatically be given an "unsatisfactory" rating by the field supervisor.

Finally, CAR days cannot be cashed in except at retirement and at a two for one basis.

You can read my previous post on the Cumulative Absence Reserve Here.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

What Do The DOE And Silicon Valley Have In Common? Hiring Cheap.

Tonight, CBS's 60 minuets will have a story how the many Silicon Valley technology companies abuse the H-IB visa that allows companies the ability to hire foreign Engineers and Scientists who have a specific skill set that Americans don't have.  However, the truth is that the Silicon Valley Tech businesses has hardly bothered to seek out Americans when there are thousands of foreign workers who are willing to fill the positions at a much lower salary and less benefits.

The DOE does not significantly participate in the H-IB visa program.  However, the DOE has their own version by forming policies that encourage the hiring of cheaper teachers.  These policies are the school-based "fair student funding" and the "Open Market Transfer System".  Moreover, the results of these two failed programs has caused a pool of excessed educators of approximately 1,500 annually, with the average age in the 50s and salary close to $90,000. They are known as ATRs.  Finally, the DOE encourages school administrators to harass and push out veteran teachers, through resignation, retirement, or termination through 3020-a charges. Every veteran teacher that leaves is replaced by a much cheaper "newbie" with a lower salary, and an inferior Tier VI pension, assuming they make it through their vesting period.

Obviously, the Silicon Valley tech companies and the DOE have similar hiring policies and that is the cheaper the better.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Trump's Preliminary Budget Takes A Bite Out Of Public School Education.

The Trump administration sent a preliminary budget to Congress with massive cuts in education, environment, and foreign aid.  Smaller cuts are proposed for most other domestic programs except for the entitlement programs of Medicare and Social Security.  By contrast, major funding increases are proposed for the military, homeland security, and the veteran administration.  This post will concentrate on the education cuts.

Donald Trump's preliminary budget cuts 13.5% or $9.2 billion dollars from the education budget.  However, the federal education cuts are actually more massive for public school education as it's 16% since there will be an increase in private school vouchers and charter school funding.The biggest cuts will be to before and after school programs, summer programs, and teacher training.  In addition, twenty departmental programs are also being either frozen or eliminated. Finally. Title II funding will be adversely affected as well. Check the NYC Public School Parents Blog for how the cuts will affect thee NYC classroom.

By contrast, the preliminary budget increases by $1.4 billion dollars for private school vouchers and Charter school funding.

Interestingly, the preliminary budget actually increases Title 1 funding but with a catch.  The Title 1 funding would follow the student rather than the school.  The result would be that both private and charter schools would try to pick off as many Title 1 eligible students who don't have major disabilities and leave the rest to the public schools.  The public schools would experience a significant funding shortfall and staff layoffs due to the budget crunch.

The passage of the preliminary education budget is uncertain at best and final passage will probably result in minimal increases for the non-public sector and significant reductions in add-on programs to the public schools.  The bottom line is that its tough times ahead for the public schools.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Are You On Track To A Comfortable Retirement?

One of the nice perks being an educator in the New York City Public School system is that, if you can last to full retirement age, you will get a generous pension and Social Security.  The question is that enough to have enough income in retirement?

If we take the average educator pension of $43,701 and for teachers at maximum salary, Social Security of about $30,000.  The total retirement income is $73,700.  Excluding any other savings from the TDA, IRA, annuity, etc.  The question is, is that enough retirement income?  The short answer is yes, but with some caveats.

If we assume that the teacher's work history was 35 years, in and out of education, retired at maximum teacher salary and was 66 years of age.  Its safe to say that the above scenario of $73,700 of annual retirement income is a reasonable guess. The table below shows, based upon age, the amount of retirement income needs to be saved, at any given time, to achieve the goal of living comfortably in retirement.

Age...............Salary Saved Multiplier


For example the maximum teacher salary at the end of this contract is $119,472, using the chart above the retirement savings necessary is $119,472 x 10 = $1,194,720  assuming that the lifetime of a teacher is 16 years after retirement at 67 years of age and using the $73,700 figure the retirement income for the 17 years would be $1,232,900 or a little more than ten times the $119,472 salary. Consequently, without any other investments, educators should be able to have enough retirement income to live comfortably, according to the chart.

The caveats I mentioned previously are as follows:

  • Teachers at maximum salary
  • Educators reaching full retirement age for Social Security
  • Educators living to at least the average lifespan
  • No pension loans outstanding at time of retirement
The chart above is simply a guide where an educator should have saved for retirement, based upon the age of the educator.

From the chart above and the caveats used in my analysis , educators who make it to full retirement age and retired at maximum salary should have a combination of the pension and Social Security to act as a floor of reliable and steady retirement income for comfortable living and any other investments are simply surplus income that the retired educator can use as they please.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Student Discipline Is Getting Worse Under The Mayor's Misguided Policies.

Over the last two years I wrote some posts about how school discipline has been getting worse since Mayor, Bill de Blasio took office who sees the New York City Public Schools from the perspective of his high achieving children who went to specialized high schools. You can find my posts Here, Here, and Here.

First, it was the ill-advised cellphone policy that allowed students to carry them in school.  Sure, he insisted that the students could not use in in the classroom but he put the responsibility squarely on the teacher, School administrators held the teachers accountable and not their own lack of enforcement for the cellphone use in the school.  The result was that students were distracted and a study showed that it caused a reduction in student academic achievement, especially in poor, minority schools.

Second, the Mayor allowed a lax student discipline policy with fewer suspensions and schools could no longer suspend a student unless DOE Central approved it.  Instead he pushed a restorative justice program and for more serious offenses a "warning card" program.  The result was a more unsafe school environment as misbehaving and even dangerous students were sent back to the classroom to continue to terrorize the teacher and students.

Finally, under Mayor Bill de Blasio's progressive policy, his emphasis to reduce arrests and suspensions in the schools allowed  students to run roughshod in the schools with little fear of punishment. 

The Bill de Blasio approach to school discipline is just like the  "broken window theory" just like real broken windows if the windows remain unfixed in houses on the block, eventually the rest of the houses on the block will experience lower property values, and have broken windows themselves. The same goes for the schools if the misbehaving and violent students are not punished and they continue to disrupt and disrespect the classroom, eventually other students will follow suit.  The result is an academically deteriorating school.

Max Eden of the Manhattan Institute did a detailed analysis of the Bill de Blasio student discipline policies and came up with the same conclusions as I have written about since the Mayor took office.  You can find the full report Here.  A summary of the report by Chalkbeat can be found Here.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Why Can't Renewal Schools Recruit Quality Teachers?

Public Advocate, Latitia James, has called for a probe of the policies affecting the Renewal School program.  She appears most upset about the declining enrollment, lack of resources, poor and costly consultant services, low college ready scores, and lack of quality teachers affecting the Renewal Schools.  This post will touch on only one of the issues, that's the lack of quality teachers.

Since the beginning of the Renewal School program back in 2014.  The Chancellor, Carmen Farina, has been claiming that the DOE will make every effort to encourage "highly effective" teachers to jump ship and join the Renewal Schools.  While the Chancellor talked a good game the results were very disappointing.  Few, if any quality teachers took the Chancellor up on her offer.  Nobody in their right mind would be willing to leave their appointed position to work for the same money while being subject to more accountability, less preparation time, and a stressful school environment in a school that might close three years down the road and find themselves in the ATR pool.

The Chancellor told Chalkbeat how she will be staffing the Renewal Schools with "highly effective"  teachers.  Instead, the only teachers being hired by the Renewal Schools are "newbies".  Just take a look at the article about Automotive High School.  Moreover,  the Chancellor ignored the data and falsely claimed that quality teachers were applying in droves to the Renewal Schools.  I guess to her "newbies" are quality teachers and that the Renewal Schools were  not losing students despite the latest data.  Finally, the DOE has in their school-based "fair student funding" formula discourages the hiring of veteran teachers who have the classroom management skills and deep curriculum knowledge to control an academically struggling school.

Go to most any Renewal High School in the City and you see fewer and fewer veteran teachers as they resign or retire and are replaced by the latest batch of  "newbies"  who are subject to a steep learning curve and usually jump ship through the Open Market Transfer System.  In fact, a study shows that 80% of the "newbie" teachers end up in another school. You can read about some of the Renewal High Schools Here.

The chances the Renewal Schools can attract quality teachers are slim and none unless major  structural changes are made like offering veteran teachers more money, exempt from Danielson, assurances of placement in another school if the Renewal School closes, and autonomy in the classroom without the micromanagement that adds to the stress and is a hallmark of the Renewal Schools.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Mayor Bill De Blasio's Education Grade Is A Failure.

When Bill de Blasio campaigned to be Mayor in 2013, his education platform was very impressive,  It promised lower class sizes, an elimination of the despised Bloomberg Era education reform, and  a more teacher friendly DOE where collaboration would replace confrontation.  Moreover, he gave educators hope that Bloomberg era policies like school-based fair student funding, reassigned teachers for frivolous reasons, and the ATR crisis would be eliminated.  Finally, he promised to fully fund the public schools and stop the closing of schools.  How did the Mayor do in keeping his promises?  Not good, not good at all.

The Mayor's first mistake was his selection of Carmen Farina as Chancellor.  true, she's a long-term educator.  However, she was also Joel Klein's Deputy Chancellor and is part of the problem not the solution.  In fact, she retained 80% of the Bloomberg policymakers and as a result, few real changes happened in the Mayor's first term. Sure, she eliminated the useless and money sucking Children First Networks and gave back the Superintendents their authority.  However, her selection of Superintendents left much to be desired. Further, she has keep the destructive fair student funding, froze school budgets and allowed DOE Central to continue their bloated ways. Worse, she has allowed the ATR crisis to fester and has no real solutions to resolve the issue.  In addition, reassigned teachers were just as high as the last years of the Bloomberg era.   Finally, her apathy for veteran teachers was summed up by her statement she made to a conference of "newbie" teachers in 2014 when she said the following:

"New teachers should avoid the teacher’s lunchroom during the first few weeks. It’s where “the whiners” go to gripe".

Her attitude about veteran teachers has been picked up by principals, especially the Leadership Academy drones, who have been indoctrinated by the Bloomberg/Klein ideology and its little wonder that veteran teachers are being harassed to resign or retire throughout the system.

Second, the Mayor has utterly failed to reduce class sizes, his main campaign promise.  In fact even his Renewal Schools have class sizes at contractual limits.  That's no thanks to Chancellor Carmen Farina who has allowed schools to  continue to put their personal preferences over student academic achievement such as using teachers uncertified in the courses their teaching or allowing a sixth period, rather than hiring teachers certified in the content specialty.

Third, the schools remain underfunded at 89% of their fair funding, despite an ever increasing DOE budget.  Far too many schools lack proper resources, books, and technology to properly run a classroom.  Moreover, 25% of the New York City Public School classrooms have no air conditioning and school overcrowding is a problem in Western Queens.  Finally, many of the small Bloomberg high schools have no gym space and nothing is done about the lack of physical activity.

Fourth, despite promises to the contrary, 17 schools have or will close by the end of the school year, many of them from the failed Renewal School program.

Finally, the Mayor has bought into the Bloomberg narrative of raising the graduation rate while ignoring the academic fraud that is associated with the rising graduation rate, like "credit recovery", online or blended learning, scholarship requirements, and Principal pressure to pass failing students.

Overall, I must give the Mayor a failing grade of an "F".

Friday, March 10, 2017

When Statistics Lie About School Violence.

The Bill de Blasio administration has proudly announced that school suspensions and criminal arrests have dropped significantly since he took office and that's correct.  However, if one was to look into the lower suspensions and criminal arrests you would find that the tone of the schools have not changed, just the numbers have.

Under the Bill de Blasio administration, two programs account for the significant reductions in suspensions and arrests,  The first, is the School Justice Project, with an emphasis on Restorative justice techniques, combined with new student discipline regulations that make it difficult to suspend students without the DOE Central approving it.  Second, is the "warning card" program for students 16 years of age or older that allows schools to give out warning cards  for criminal behavior rather than be arrested.  71 schools, mostly in the Bronx are part of the program and will be expanded to another 37 schools throughout the City next year.

The new initiatives gives parents and students a false sense of security that the schools that their child chose is safe.  However, the head of the school safety agents that protect the schools, Greg Floyd, had this to say about the dropping suspensions and arrests.  "Crime statistics in public schools can be hidden. Weapons cannot".  Mr. Floyd was pointing out that there was no corresponding drop in students found to have weapons on them.  Moreover, Mr. Floyd stated that principals under report or miscategorize violent incidents to keep the suspension and arrest rates down for fear of the DOE closing their school.  This keeps the families in the dark about the potentially unsafe school environment there is for their children.

While nobody wants to go back to the "bad old days" of school to prison pipeline, hiding violent misbehavior and criminal actions by initiatives that have questionable value just make the schools more unsafe for the unsuspecting families that send their children to the school based on bogus statistics that hide the real truth about the school.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

How Vindictive Is The DOE When It Comes To Whistleblowers? This Vindictive.

Teachers who have been working in the New York City school system for decades know, either first hand, or from colleagues how the DOE's Office of Legal Services will pull out all stops to terminate teachers for the most minor of incidents when the Principal demands it.  It's not unusual for the DOE to sic their investigators on the hapless teacher and make frivolous incidents into major misconduct.  You can read my corrupt investigations articles Here.  Moreover, the DOE practices a "double standard" when it comes to disciplining administrators and staff. However, the DOE seems to have a special dislike for staff whistleblowers, be it Regents cheating, "double dipping" by administrators, like Principal Linda HIll, and administrative misconduct by abusing their authority over their staff.

One of the DOE's most egregious cases was the arrest of former Staten Island Chapter Leader and UFT Presidential candidate, Francesco Portelos by the DOE for publishing a sham piece called "How to hack the DOE payroll portal and give yourself a raise". Everybody who read the post knew it was a fantasy piece and gave many of us a good chuckle anyway.  What did the DOE do?  They called their favorite NYPD Detective, a Mr. Conner of the 84th Precinct that covers the DOE's 65 Court Street building in Brooklyn to arrest Mr. Portelos.  That's after assurances that Mr. Portelos would only get a desk appearance summons. Instead, he was arrested and kept in a holding cell for 33 hours before the District Attorney threw out the DOE's criminal complaint.

However, you feel about Mr. Portelos, what the DOE did was over the top and I hope he wins his lawsuit for abusing the justice system that had him unfairly arrested. You can read the story Here.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Social Security And NYC Educators.

 We New York City Public School educator gets some pretty good benefits.  A nice pension, a TDA that gives 7% to 8.25% interest with no fees, and affordable health benefits, not to mention union supplied and City funded welfare benefits like dental, hearing, and vision services.  What's not appreciated is that all the educators are covered by Social Security and that's a great bonus. Just ask teachers in fifteen states ranging from western states like California, Nevada, Colorado, and Alaska.,  the New England States except for Vermont and New Hampshire, and the rust belt states like Ohio, Illinois, and Kentucky about their lack of Social Security benefits. Let's not forget the South like Texas, Louisiana, Missouri, and Georgia.  Include some cities like Washington D.C. and 40% of all teachers in the country are not eligible for Social Security payments. When these teachers eventually retire, the likelihood is that they will get little or no Social Security income when they reach the age to apply for the benefit.

In a previous post I pointed out that the average New York City educator pension is $43,701.  Add the annual Social Security income for these long term educators of approximately $30,000.  Therefore, most retirees have a minimal average retirement income of $73,000, not including other investments like the TDA or IRA's for example.  TRS in their retirement seminars have stated that the average retiree has $325,000 in their TDA.  Assuming the money is invested in the fixed fund at 7%, the TDA throws off $22,750 annually.  Its safe to assume most long-term educators in the New York City Public Schools have an annual retirement income of close to $100,000, before taxes.

For long-term New York City educators there are some downsides to Social Security.  First, while educators can retire as young as 55 years of age, Social Security does not start until 62 years of age and is reduced by up to 30%. Second, the earned income limit to collect full Social Security and not pay taxes on the benefit is only $25,000 for single taxpayers and $32,000 for married taxpayers.  Therefore, all long-term teachers can expect to be taxed on 85% of their Social Security income.  For educators who retire before their full retirement age, the maximum a retired educator can make is $16,920.  Any earned income above the $16,920 will result in $1 being deducted from your Social Security check for every $2 earned.  Finally, most school-based educators tend to retiree in June. at the end of the school year.  However, for educators  who take Social Security and are younger than the full retirement year, there is the limitation of $16,920 for the calendar year.  Therefore, it might be wise to wait until January of the next year before taking Social Security or work the Fall Semester and take Social Security in February of that year.  Otherwise, you will have a sharply reduced Social Security check for the rest of the calendar year.

Social Security for the long-term educators may be the difference in being able to live very comfortably in retirement.

Attached is an Excel Worksheet that shows what the percentage you receive by taking Social Security between the ages of 62 and 70.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

The Renewal High Schools Academically Are Like A One Legged Man In An Ass Kicking Contest.

One of the greatest failures of the Bill de Blasio Administration is his Renewal School program.  These are struggling schools with a low achieving student population, a competitive disadvantage in recruiting academically proficient students due to the DOE's misguided school choice program, and the Renewal Schools failure to recruit veteran teachers to work in the highly stressful and intensely accountable environment.  The result is an influx of "newbie" teachers, year after year, who flee the schools through the Open Market Transfer System every summer and this high staff turnover destabilizes the already struggling schools.

The New York Post has started a one week series on the Renewal Schools and their failure to significantly improve student academic achievement, especially the high schools.  The Post article pointed out the following issues of-the Renewal Schools.

  • Total enrollment at the 86 Renewal schools currently open has plummeted nearly 25 percent — from 49,391 to 37,146 — since the 2013-2014 school year, before the program began.
  • Average per-student spending at each Renewal school is $14,632 this school year, up nearly 35 percent from $10,847 in 2013-2014 — and more than twice the cost of educating students at the elite Stuyvesant and Brooklyn Tech high schools.
  • Only three Renewal schools met all their improvement goals last school year, while 61 showed declines in at least one category and 13 fell in three or more — even after the Renewal schools were given three years to hit targets for which other schools only got one.
Moreover, the dropout rate at the Renewal High Schools rose to 18.5%, compared to a 8.5% dropout rate for the City as a whole.  Finally, the "college and career readiness" rate of all Renewal School has fallen since 2014 and only 12.3% of the graduates achieve that proficiency, compared to a 37.0% for the rest of the high schools. In tomorrow's paper the article is about a Renewal High School with uncertified teachers, lack of resources, and an uncaring Superintendency.

I have written various articles on the failure of the Renewal Schools and the various issues that have resulted in their continued struggles and you can read them Here, , Here, Here and Here. For more about the failed Renewal School program please read this.

The bottom line, until the City changes the school choice and fair student funding programs, the Renewal Schools are like a one legged man in an ass kicking contest, they cannot win, or in this case improve academically.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Teacher Tenure And Retention.

Over the years teacher tenure has been under attack.  Even in deep blue and union friendly States like California and New York.  Education reform groups and their media allies have presented teacher tenure as allowing teachers lifetime job protection by keepimg their positions despite committing misconduct or being incompetent.  The truth is far different.  Teacher tenure is granted only after two to five years of continuous satisfactory service and must be awarded by the Superintendent.  Moreover, teachers who earn tenure are awarded the right to a full and fair hearing by an independent arbitrator if the school district charges the teacher with either incompetence or misconduct/  By contrast, untenured teachers can be discontinued for any or no reason whatsoever.

The reason that teachers need tenure are as follows:

  1. Tenure protects teachers from being fired for inappropriate reasons. Before tenure teachers were fired for political, personal, and other non-teaching reasons.  Teachers were also fired for teaching evolution and for simply questioning school board decisions.
  2. Tenure protects teachers from false accusations.  A popular saying is that "when does a teenager lie?  When they open their mouth".  Was replaced that children lie except when its about their teacher.
  3. Teacher tenure makes teachers better educators.  Tenure allows teachers to experiment with different and more effective ways to improve student academic performance.
  4. Tenure protects good teachers from being fired because they are too expensive or too old.
  5. Tenure allows teachers to stand up and question administrative decisions that are detrimental to student learning.
In many "right to work" states, teacher tenure is limited or eliminated.  In these states where teacher tenure does not exist, teacher salaries are low, teacher turnover is high, and teacher shortages are becoming an ever increasing problem, especially for urban and high poverty schools.  The latest example is Louisiana where teacher tenure was eliminated for teachers and replaced by one year evaluations, based upon student Common Core based test scores.  The result is that the State has seen a significant exodus of teachers, especially veteran teachers and are currently experiencing a severe teacher shortage.

The Louisiana experience is not surprising since charter schools, where teacher tenure does not exist, experiences high teacher turnover and usually has difficulty retaining teachers for more than two years.  Its not unusual to see 50% of the staff turnover every tear in the charter schools. Is it little wonder that the charter schools are always hiring Teach For America "newbies" who usually stay only two years in the classroom anyway?

Without a stable teaching staff the student body experiences  transient adult instructors and believe its their fault that teachers are here today and gone tomorrow.  How does that help the student's  self worth?  It doesn't of course.  Teacher retention is a major ingredient in student academic achievement and tenure is the carrot that keeps teachers from leaving a school for a better and more respected job outside of the classroom.  In other words, teacher tenure is necessary for teacher retention and long-term student academic achievement.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Senior Teachers Targeted At Thomas Edison High School

One of the better high schools in Queens is Thomas Edison High School located in the Jamaica Hill section of Queens.  The school is both screened and unscreened when it comes to student selection and has a fairly diverse student body.  If you look at their snapshot you will see they have a high "college and career readiness" score and is a school that I highly recommend if I was a parent with an academically proficient student   However, if you are a senior staff member there is a dark side to the school.

The school has, in the last few years, a reputation for targeting veteran teachers and has forced many of them to retire or risk getting an "ineffective" rating.  For the veteran teachers who refused to be pushed out, 3020-a charges and reassignment out of the school and into the DOE's informal "rubber rooms" are the result.  I was there for a month and heard many a horror story about what the administration did to senior teachers and was there when one senior teacher got her 3020-a charges for incompetence, despite getting a "developing " rating on both parts of her evaluation the last year.  Some senior teachers told me that they are leaving and some have left mid-semester due to the administrative harassment they experienced.

Now, in today's New York Post, a senior teacher, Alan Herz was served 3020-a charges simply based on some questionable but innocent statements he allegedly made to two students.  Fortunately, for Mr. Herz, the charges was not put in writing within 90 days of the investigation and by contract they are no longer chargeable.  Therefore,  the statements cannot be used in the 3020-a hearings. and was thrown out by the administrative law judge.  Now, the DOE wants a second bite of the apple and wants to recharge Mr. Hertz again for the same statements he made in 2014 and has filed a lawsuit to overturn the decision against the DOE.

In another case an activist Chapter Leader, Marilyn Martinez, a 12 year veteran with a child in the school, from the award winning and progressive Central Park East I elementary school was removed after supporting parents and staff run-ins with appointed Principal Monika Garg who is trying to remake the successful school into something less. The Superintendent not only had the Chapter Leader removed just before the February break and was served, with lightning speed, her 3020-a charges.  But believe it or not,  her hearing starts tomorrow! Read the entire sordid story at Ed Notes Online. 

Also read the massive protest by parents and staff at 100 Gold Street in support of the Chapter Leader.

These are just more examples how little has changed at the DOE under Bill de Blasio and his Chancellor Carmen Farina when it comes to abusive persecution of senior teachers that started in the Bloomberg era and continues unabated to this day.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

The Teacher Retirement System Needs To Update And Upgrade The TDA With A ROTH Option.


In my continuing series to make my readers more financially savvy, I have explored possible improvements to our Tax Deferred Annuity (TDA).  Its no secret that our TDA is one of the best benefits educators who work for the DOE has.  UFT members can get 7% in the Fixed Income Fund, with no administrative or management fees while non-UFT members get 8.25%.  According to TRS 60% of all educators funds are in the Fixed Income Fund. Who can blame educators when inflation is running at 2%?

However, our TDA has some shortcomings, a limited selection of funds and up to a three month delay to change your portfolio contribution allocation as well as re-balancing.  One of the more serious flaws our TDA has is the lack of a ROTH option. There is no reason why TRS does not offer a ROTH option.  The NYCDCP for Municipal employees offer both a ROTH 401{k} and 457 plan.  Yet for some unknown reason, the TRS does not offer a ROTH option in their 403{b} plan.

First, let me explain the difference between a ROTH option and our TRS non-ROTH option.  The ROTH option requires the contributor to pay taxes, upfront but any withdrawals are tax free.  By contrast the TRS non-ROTH option allows the educator to deduct their tax-deferred contribution from their taxable income upfront but then taxes the withdrawals.  Both plans allow for appreciation to grow without being taxed while the money accumulates in the plans.

For new and younger employees, the ROTH option is vastly superior to the non-ROTH option.  Primarily because the newer employees make less money and therefore, the taxes taken out for each paycheck is less.  Moreover, younger employees have a long time to retirement and the appreciation from contributions and compounding will result in a large amount of money subject to taxation when its time to withdraw under the TDA plan.  Presently, according to the TRS the average TDA fund has $325,000 in it, a large sum of money that the government would like to get their hands on and will without a ROTH plan.  Furthermore, under the non-ROTH TDA plan, retirees over 70 years of age will have to withdraw a certain percentage of money that is subject to Federal tax.  This is called the Required Minimum Distribution (RMD).  By contrast if the TRS had a ROTH TDA, the withdrawals would be tax free and not subject to the RMD.  Finally, by having a lower salary, and the ROTH TDA plan, if there ever is one, would allow money to be taken out paycheck to paycheck, 24 annually, and the bi-weekly tax bite will be minimal, when compared to the tax-free withdrawals at retirement.

For educators near or at retirement, baby boomers for example, its probably too late to convert the TDA to a ROTH plan, if offered, since the money that is transferred into a ROTH plan would be subject to Federal taxes.  For example is it really worthwhile to convert your entire $325,000 TDA and pay a 33% to 39.6% tax on it?  Probably not. It seems to me you are better off being subject to the RMD which is 3.65% and pay taxes on $11,863 that must be withdrawn from the $325,000 nest egg and at a hopefully much lower Federal tax bracket of between 15% and 28%.  For us older folks you can see the tax advantage by contributing to a TDA  Here.

Until TRS offers a ROTH TDA plan, the educator really only has two choices.  Contribute to the TDA plan or rollover the money and new contributions to the NYCDCP 401{k} or 457 ROTH plans.  Personally, I rather have the 7% interest rate guarantee and the tax deduction and pay the RMD when I am 70 years old,