New Policy on Substitutes Leads to More in Permanent Slots

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The number of teachers without permanent assignments has fallen to its lowest level in more than a year, and both the city and the teachers' union credit a new agreement.

Teachers without permanent assignments — also known as "excess teachers" — are now sent to work as substitutes in different schools every week, instead of just one or two schools for the whole year. The change went into effect in early October.

According to the city's Department of Education, there are now 1,126 teachers without any assignments. This is fewer than at any time during the last school year.

The Bloomberg administration views this pool of teachers, known as the Absent Teacher Reserve, as a wasteful expenditure because it costs about $100 million annually to keep the teachers on the city's payroll. Many of the teachers lost their jobs because of budget cuts or because their schools were closed. Most find other positions within the school system, but others spend years in the pool working as substitutes.

The city has used a hiring freeze to encourage principals to fill their vacancies with the excess teachers, but some principals claim the teachers don't always want permanent jobs and would rather float around without any real responsibility.

By rotating the excess teachers to different schools in their district every week, the city and the union hoped more of them would land permanent jobs by connecting with a wider range of principals. Since the change began in October, the city says 228 teachers landed permanent jobs.

“Our agreement with the U.F.T. to change the A.T.R. rotation has resulted in more teachers being hired by schools than during this same time frame in past years, which is both beneficial to schools and is an overall cost savings for the system,” said a Department of Education spokeswoman, Barbara Morgan.

The United Federation of Teachers president, Michael Mulgrew, agreed that "people are getting placed." But he said his union was still working with the department to make sure long-term vacancies were filled by the excess teachers so they did not have to move around every week. He acknowledged that some teachers had complained about the system.

Principals have mixed opinions, too. Seth Phillips, principal of Public School 8 Robert Fulton, in Brooklyn Heights, said he understood the city's reason for the change. But he said it had been "up and down," noting that in one case he was asked to discipline a teacher who had just been sent to his school for the week.

However, he said it was nice to know every Thursday who would be showing up the following Monday, and that he had seen a wide range of different teachers.