New York Times | Editorial
November 27, 2008
New York City and its teachers’ union took an important step when they agreed to abandon a rule that allowed senior teachers to transfer into any school they wished, often bumping younger teachers from their jobs. The new policy, which allows principals to reject unwanted applicants, has put an end to disruptive transfers and made it easier for schools to build coherent teams.
The new system is not perfect. It has unfortunately created an incentive for principals to pass over the most experienced teachers — who can earn $100,000 a year — in favor of new teachers who cost about half that much. The passed-over teachers, whose jobs are guaranteed under the union contract, end up in a “reserve pool,” where they typically work as substitutes, while the central administration budget pays their full salaries. The cost to the city is estimated at $74 million a year.
The city and the union have now agreed on a new initiative that should cut costs while helping the best reserve pool teachers find permanent positions. Under the new rules, schools that fill vacancies from the pool will receive a small bonus and a significant salary subsidy that holds them harmless for up to eight years.
If all goes as planned, principals will seek out the best teachers from the reserve pool, no matter how high their salaries. That still leaves a crucial question unanswered: what to do with reserve teachers whose records of poor performance make it unlikely that they will be hired.
Within a year or so, the city should know which teachers were passed over for salary reasons and which ones have languished in the reserve pool because of poor performance. Once the data is in, the city and the union will need to negotiate a plan for ushering the inadequate teachers out of the system.