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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

NYC ATRs send warning to Chicago

The Chicago skyline

Chicago teachers have a new contract that will require the city to "hire back" 50% of any teachers that lose their positions due to school closings; in order to meet the quota, some teachers will be retained as part of a "substitute pool" (see here). In other words, the Windy City will have its very own version of Gotham's Absent Teacher Reserve.  

When the GEM/ATR Committee heard about this, they sent some words of warning to their brothers and sisters in Chicago.  The GEM/ATR communique is must reading for teachers in both cities. 

Dear Sisters and Brothers in the Chicago Teachers Union,

The GEM/ATR Committee's advice on how to be vigilant in protecting the integrity of hiring pools:

1. We wish to warn you that, if left unchecked, Chicago Public Schools will probably hire new, inexperienced teachers, from organizations such as Teach for America recruits, instead of teachers from your hiring pool. We are saying this based on our experience in New York City. The administration uses budget formulas which powerfully incentivize principals to hire new teachers instead of the excessed teachers from the closed schools. Our administration then presents the fiction that the excessed teachers are undesirable/unemployable, when in actuality the administration just wants to hire new teachers over older teachers, because they cost less to the schools.

2. Again, from our experience, if there is no enforcement provision and there is no transparency on the issue of hires in your city, your BOE, just like ours, will not fully comply with their agreement. To avoid these problems, there should be a joint committee between the union and a board of education that is supposed to evaluate the actual performance of the agreement (which we supposedly have in N.Y.C.), AND that the results be regularly published so that union members can be informed, in order to mobilize union members to hold board of education leaders accountable.  In New York, ATRs --excessed teachers, are in the dark as to whether the agreement is being enforced. We have just learned through the media that our ranks stand at a record 1,800 teachers in the excess pool. (Just from casual conversations, many of us learn of positions that were open but were not advertised/posted, even though they are supposed to be advertised.) In other words, if you do not have enforcement provisions and consequences for the BOE, they will not fully follow the agreement.

3. Union leaders should be given timely information as to the performance of the agreement.  By timely, we mean specific deadlines upon which specific information is shared (such as the number of excessed teachers, which licenses, number of new hires, the licenses of the excessed teachers, and proof of advertising/posting of every filled position.)

4. If the agreement/contract is not followed by a board of education there should be consequences to the board, such as allowing more input from teachers and parents as to policy decisions. For example teachers picked by the union, or parents picked by PTAs, would be allowed to vote on board of education policy making committees.  To unelected boards of education, we would say: "You should have no fear of getting increased democracy in policy decisions, if you just follow through with the agreement."

In solidarity, the GEM/ATR Committee, of excessed NYC teachers. 

(For full disclosure, we are unrepresented dues-paying members of the United Federation of Teachers.)                             

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