The fact that Mayor de Blasio and United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew are shoulder-slapping simpatico, and that Chancellor Richard Carranza calls Mulgrew his “brother from another mother,” didn’t deliver 80,000 city teachers a windfall in the just-announced labor deal.
They’ll get average annual raises of about 2.5%, which is roughly the rate of inflation.
Give credit to chief city labor negotiator Bob Linn for showing sufficient respect for pattern bargaining, and for taxpayers who are footing the cost of an ever-larger municipal government, to keep the topline number in check.
And for squeezing modest, though still insufficient, health-care savings out of the city’s single largest public-sector workforce.
Simultaneously, it’s good news that this agreement, for the first time ever, lets schools pay a subset of educators more than their peers. At up to 180 schools that have struggled to retain teachers, educators in hard-to-staff subject areas — math and science tend to be the most common — will be eligible to earn $5,000 to $8,000 more a year.
That’s not performance-based pay, and it’s not happening citywide, but we’ll take the differentials as a significant break from the mindless lockstep pay schedule to which most teacher paychecks conform. On this front, damn-the-torpedoes, tie-teacher-pay-to-test-scores reformer Mike Bloomberg made a smaller dent.
The massive agreement has one big misstep: Rather than giving management more tools to remove from payroll teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve, where tenured educators who can’t find permanent work are parked, it preserves and even strengthens the hand of the educrats at Tweed to force them on schools.
That’s bad for kids, unfair to principals and disrespectful to existing staff.
Then there’s one big question mark: plans for a new screening test to determine whether prospective teachers are good fits for the profession, intended to cut down on early burnout and the headaches that come with high turnover.
There’s nothing wrong with trying to ensure that applicants are poised for long-term success. L.A. vets would-be teachers with a tool that includes college GPAs, sample lessons, and other application materials; research suggests it’s working.
But if poorly executed, the suitability test could wrap an already complex hiring process in ever more red tape — or even exclude talented people who might do great work for a few years, then switch gears to another profession.