The New York City Department of Education (DOE) offered a buyout option for its extra 115 teachers and staff members who are still on payroll without permanent job positions.
The buy-out works out to about a $16,000 severance package per staff member, or about nine weeks pay of their average $93,000 salary, for a total of $1.8 million. Including the cost of benefit packages, the reduced staff size will save the city an annual amount of about $15 million.
“We are pleased that . . . we were able to develop a process that is mutually beneficial for the DOE by reducing spending and for the teachers who have chosen to leave,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña.
The goal was to deplete the Absent Teacher Reserve, a group of tenured teachers who have been bouncing around the school system as substitutes after school closings made it difficult for them to find permanent positions, despite being sent on numerous interviews. The pool typically holds about 1,000 teachers and costs taxpayers roughly $100 million each year.
As of October 15, teachers in this pool “will be given a temporary provisional assignment” in schools with vacancies. However, principals have “no obligation to use them” and teachers may find themselves right back in the pool.
“I’ll go out on whatever interviews they send me on,” said teacher James Eterno. “Hopefully, a principal will pick me up and I’ll be teaching.”
According to the DOE, it is unclear how many teachers are retiring rather than resigning. The department stated that any teacher who does not show up to district job interviews or rejects offers would be assumed to have resigned.
Lindsey Christ for NY1 reported that 90% of the 1,300 staff members are presumed to have rejected the offer. These are teachers who feel they lost their job through no fault of their own due to school closings.
“It’s definitely insulting to take people who’ve worked their whole lives in education and say, ‘Here, we’ll give you $10,000 to just leave,’ as if you could just go run and find another job,” Eterno said. “It was ridiculous.”
Meanwhile, critics believe the DOE is celebrating too quickly. They say there will still be 1,100 teachers returning who are ineffective at their jobs. According to StudentsFirstNY, 41% of the teachers in the pool had been in that position for at least three years, and one-third of the pool had at one time been rated unsatisfactory.
“Today’s announcement demonstrates that the DOE is not serious about ensuring that every child is taught by a quality teacher. Had they been, there’s a simple solution: limit the time unwanted teachers can collect a paycheck,” said StudentFirstNY director Jenny Sedlis.
United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew called the buy-out a way for teachers who did not want to teach anymore to leave the system, leaving more permanent openings available for teachers who “should be in the classroom”.