Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wall Street Journal Covers ATR's

The Wall Street Journal reports that the ATR issue is a major part of the contract discussion:

As negotiations drag on over a new contract for the city's teachers, one sticky issue involves how to handle teachers who lost permanent jobs during cutbacks but keep getting full paychecks as they bounce around schools for brief stints, filling in for absent staff.
Hundreds spend years in limbo. A city Department of Education analysis in July said the group's size fluctuates but totaled 1,186 teachers last spring and cost at least $105 million last year in salaries and benefits—after counting the savings from not hiring regular substitutes.
Representatives for Mayor Bill de Blasio and the United Federation of Teachers confirmed that how to treat the group, called the Absent Teacher Reserve, is under discussion as they hammer out a contract to replace one that expired in 2009. They declined to comment further. Other major issues include back pay and raises.

The WSJ goes to the famed Educators4Excellence, an astroturf group of dozens of mostly ex-teachers now on the Gates Foundation payroll, for context on the ATR issue early in the article:

Educators 4 Excellence-New York, an advocacy group of more than 8,000 teachers, plans to release a policy brief Wednesday recommending that teachers in the pool get two April-to-August hiring seasons to find jobs. The brief argues that if they don't get hired within that period, they should be put on unpaid leave.

"Two hiring cycles strikes a balance between providing a fair opportunity for teachers to find a new teaching position and at the same time provides schools and the system the autonomy they need," said Jonathan Schleifer, executive director.

They get a couple of statements from ATR's, one of which seems to back up the E4E argument:

David Levin, a 13-year teacher in his fourth year in the pool in the Bronx, said it isn't his fault principals usually prefer to hire cheaper "newbies." He makes $80,987 a year.

Mr. Levin said the system should be fixed somehow—perhaps by deploying these teachers as mentors or extra help in difficult classrooms. It is hard for substitute teachers to keep students under control because there is little time to learn their names and behavior, he said. In one class, rowdy teenagers turned off the lights and started throwing chairs. "I don't know the students, the culture or the school," he said. "The kids act out."

Pasqual Pelosi, a language arts teacher in the Bronx pool who makes $75,937 a year, said his 12 years of experience were being squandered. He said at times he thinks shuttling teachers to different schools weekly is designed to wear them down so they quit in disgust.

"There's plenty of frustration," he said.

Among the frustrations over his career, Pelosi acknowledged facing several accusations, including an instance of alleged corporal punishment. 

"Any teacher who has been around for as long as I have is bound to have had some sort of allegations lodged," he said, adding that was especially true for a "disciplinarian" such as himself. "Nothing has been proven against me," he said.

And of course the Journal provides the two page Educators4Excellence "policy paper" putting forth the "Fire The ATR's" policy, along with quotes from education reform shills at StudentsFirstNY and The New Teacher Project, to slam home the idea that the ATR's are valueless employees.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew is given the last word, however:

The union's Mr. Mulgrew said nearly three-quarters of the teachers in the pool get permanent jobs within three years. "Our studies show that the most important single factor is money," he said. "The least experienced (and thus cheaper) teachers are the first to be selected."

If they ended the "fair funding" system that had schools paying for teacher salaries dollar for dollar out of their own budgets and went back to the system at large covering the salaries of teachers, many of the ATR's would be hire.

The truth is, so long as the dollars come straight out of the individual school budget, an administrators is always going to look to hire the $50,000 candidate over the $80,000 candidate.


  1. Just want to chime in on CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS. I read on a link from this site that the Police Dept. had a possible contract deal involving buying service time in lieu of retro pay. I wrote to our UFT treasurer supporting this idea and also to the Mayor, did not receive a reply from either. Does anyone have an contract news? No doubt, we should be worried about the probability of another lackluster deal here. I thought the service time option would be attractive in some ways- cycle out veterans, save money for the city on retro, make the UFT look good by helping city save money ... what are your thoughts, readers?

    1. I'm dubious the service time in lieu of retro pay is a serious part of the negotiations. Other than the PBA site that had that story, I have seen it nowhere else.

  2. RBE

    As predicted Leslie Body ignored the "fair student funding" issue and she seems to lack the knowledge in understanding the problems associated with the ATR pool..

    1. Chaz, I think it gives the WSJ writers too much credit to say that they lack the knowledge around the issues.

      That assertion assumes they're on the up-and-up when they write these pieces and are looking to tell truth and facts.

      This is the Murdoch-owned WSJ we're talking about.

      The propaganda has bled into the news section long ago and the stories are always framed from a pro-corporate reform perspective.

      They ignore the "fair funding" issue because it doesn't fit with the anti-ATR story they want to print and make no mistake, that's the story they want out there because it's what Murdoch wants out there.

    2. Why publicize these stories? It does nothing for us and just moves the center of gravity in negotiations to the other side. ATR time limits are not something the UFT will give away. I have said this all along. Unfair student funding is only part of the problem. There were still many ATR's who weren't hired when principals were given generous subsidies to hire an ATR a few years back.

    3. I see what you're saying about the story, James. Fair point.

  3. James, I agree. I don't think the student funding is the big issue with the ATRs. Principals want young, inexperienced teachers. I don't understand how the ATR pool is not a huge lawsuit. I mean 99% of the teachers in the pool are over 50. Every teacher who comes to our school is over 50. I guess an age-discrimination lawsuit is not necessary because these teachers still have jobs, but the ATR pool in my mind is a perfect example of the age discrimination going on within the DOE. The young teachers at my school think the ATRs are U-rated teachers.

    1. I have never seen an ATR under 50. Not one. They may exist, but I've never seen one. So yes, age discrimination is at play here too.