Beth Fertig is WNYC’s Contributing Editor for Education. She previously covered politics, which included City Hall during the Giuliani administration, and the U.S. Senate campaigns of Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton. She also covered transportation and infrastructure.
City Teachers Scramble for New Positions
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
More than 1,900 city teachers let go by their principals because of budget cuts are still looking for new jobs this fall — and continue to receive salaries while they're assigned to work as subs and look for permanent positions within the school system.
Letting go of teachers for budget reasons has become an annual tradition in New York City, known as "excessing." This is the fifth consecutive year in which schools have had their budgets slashed. This year, individual schools lost an average of 2.4 percent of their city funds. Principals have responded by raising class sizes in order to let go of a teacher, or by moving librarians back to the classroom.
As many as 3,325 teachers were in the excess pool at its peak this summer, compared to 2,993 last summer — a figure that included more than 1,000 teachers who lost their jobs in previous years. But the total number of teachers still looking for work shrank to 1,940 by August 19, about the same number as this time last year.
It Could Have Been Worse
The teachers unions said it's not as bad as it feared.
"One potential reason could be that a larger-than-expected number of retirements and attrition could have created an unusual number of vacancies in schools," United Federation of Teachers spokesman Dick Riley said.
This allowed principals to pluck more teachers out of the excess pool, which is also called the Absent Teacher Reserve.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been lobbying to put a time limit on how long teachers can stay in the ATR pool if they don't find permanent jobs, because it costs the city about $100 million annually. As of August 19, 68 teachers have been in the ATR pool since 2006.
This year, as part of the deal to avoid any layoffs, the union agreed to give the Department of Education more flexibility in assigning teachers from the ATR pool to work as subs.
Other Positions Cut from Schools
The city expects to reassign 555 principals, assistant principals, guidance counselors, psychologists, social workers, attendance teachers and school secretaries to other positions because their principals couldn't afford to keep them on staff. There are no comparable figures for last year.
The city also has new estimates for how many non-teaching positions will be cut from schools this fall because the no-layoff pledge only applied to the teachers union.
It appears that a total of 777 positions were axed, including school aides, family workers, parent coordinators, health service aides, drivers and engineers.
Most of those come from District Council 37.