NYC to Offer Buyouts to Teachers Not Good Enough to Work

New York City education officials will offer buyouts to hundreds of teachers who collectively cost the city at least $100 million a year after principals rejected them for positions, Chancellor Dennis Walcott said.

The city has about 800 educators who lack school assignments after a principal asked them to leave and they failed to get rehired elsewhere in the system. The so-called absent-teacher reserve pool reached as high as 3,600 earlier this year, Walcott said.

“If they can’t get hired by another principal -- even if they don’t try to find a job at all -- we still have to pay their salaries,” Walcott said today at a breakfast sponsored by the Association for a Better New York, a civic group.

Walcott declined to say how much the plan would cost, other than characterizing it as “a generous incentive” to resign. The proposed 2013 city budget due June 30 is $68.7 billion.

Nonworking teachers cost taxpayers $100 million a year in salaries alone, he said, out of a proposed $19.7 billion school budget for 2013. The city’s portion is $9.2 billion.

Walcott said that more than 25 percent of the unassigned teachers “have been disciplined for bad behavior” and almost half haven’t submitted job applications or attended recruitment fairs, which he called “totally unacceptable.”

“Think about that: When unemployment is still high and budgets are tight, we are spending more than $100 million on teachers who aren’t interested in teaching,” Walcott said

Bargaining Stalemate

The proposal comes after several months of a bargaining stalemate between Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration and the United Federation of Teachers over an evaluation system that must be resolved for the city to obtain $300 million in federal and state school aid.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew said Walcott overstated the cost of the reserve pool by failing to recognize how the union saved the city $40 million last year by agreeing to expedite the use of those teachers as substitutes. The money saved was used to avert the firing of 4,100 of the city’s 75,000 teachers.

“If the administration now has a proposal for a buyout and presumably a plan to fill in the budget gap that reducing the pool will create, we are prepared to listen,” Mulgrew said in an e-mail.

The mayor 10 years ago singled out education as the issue on which his performance should be judged.

In his January State of the City speech, he proposed encouraging $25,000 grants to help pay off college-student loans to attract graduates at the top of their class to work in city schools.

The mayor also proposed a $20,000 salary boost for teachers rated “highly effective” for two consecutive years.

The union opposed both initiatives, saying similar programs had failed elsewhere in the U.S.

The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

To contact the reporter on this story: Henry Goldman in New York City Hall at hgoldman@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at mtannen@bloomberg.net.

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