Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Jobs Saved: 4,400

An editorial in the NYT about how the "reserve pool" needs to be eliminated:


June 3, 2010

Jobs Saved: 4,400

Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City made the sensible choice this week when he opted to freeze teachers' salaries instead of laying off teachers. That is good news for the city's children and for the estimated 4,400 teachers who would have lost their jobs. It is an equitable solution in tough times.

It would have been an even better decision if Mr. Bloomberg had decided to give the president of the teachers' union, Michael Mulgrew, some early warning.

New York City is not the only one making similar calculations. According to an analysis by the National Council on Teacher Quality, a research group, nearly half of the districts whose policies it tracks held salaries flat during the 2008 and 2009 school years; nearly a dozen cut teacher pay, probably in an attempt to avoid layoffs.

Mr. Bloomberg is obligated under state labor law to continue to pay "step increases" that are awarded when teachers reach specified seniority levels. But the mayor said this week that freezing across-the-board salary levels, which are not covered under that law, would save the city $400 million this year and avert layoffs.

The city and the teachers' union, which have reached an impasse in contract talks, still have a lot of serious problems to resolve. (That might have gone a bit easier if the mayor consulted Mr. Mulgrew about the salary freeze first.)

High on the list of outstanding issues is the so-called reserve pool, which consists of about 1,000 teachers whose schools or departments have been closed down but who have been unable to find permanent jobs within the system. These reserve teachers — who often make as much $100,000 a year — typically work as substitutes while the central office pays their salaries.

The city says the arrangement will cost it $100 million this year and wants to limit how long these teachers get to stay in the pool before they are dismissed. The union says that many of the reserve teachers are perfectly good instructors but can't find jobs because the schools don't want to absorb their high salaries.

The two sides must negotiate a fair and equitable system under which capable teachers find jobs quickly and teachers who cannot do the job are shown the door. For that to happen, they will need to put aside the acrimony and sit down at the bargaining table.

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