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Union suggests retirement incentives for veteran teachers

The president of the city teachers union is asking the city to offer a retirement incentive for veteran teachers, a move that could make room for new teachers who have otherwise been (mostly) frozen out of the system for this fall.

In a letter sent yesterday to Christopher Cerf, the Department of Education’s top human-resources official, Randi Weingarten says she is concerned about how the hiring freeze is being implemented. New schools have been told they are exempt from the freeze, and graduates of education schools are getting cut loose, while members of Teach For America and the Teaching Fellows program are being promised some spots.

Weingarten argues that new teachers, especially those who have graduated from schools of education, could improve the city’s teaching quality:

Remember the teachers who we recruit through the education colleges and the career ladder program have far better retention rates; that both increases teacher quality and saves the money invested in them.

Her solution is retirement incentives for veteran teachers, which she argues would make more room for new teachers. An added benefit, she says, is that those new teachers would cost the city less on average.

Weingarten’s full letter is after the jump. We’ll publish the city’s response as soon as we have it.

May 13, 2009

Mr. Chris Cerf
Deputy Chancellor of Organizational Strategies,
Human Capital and External Affairs
Department of Education
52 Chambers Street
New York, NY 10007

Dear Chris:

During this tough fiscal climate, we have frequently suggested
alternatives to layoffs, and we are gratified that the Department of
Education has implemented some of those ideas, including a teacher
hiring freeze and the filling of school vacancies with educators from
the ATR pool who lost their jobs through no fault of their own and are
now working in the Absent Teacher Reserve pool. Given the current
economic crisis, it is crucial that every dollar be spent wisely.
Putting these skilled educators back in the classroom is fiscally
responsible and will enable students to benefit from their talent and
years of experience.

We have, however, reservations about how the DOE intends to conduct
its limited outside hiring for new schools and for high-need areas
such as bilingual special education and speech teachers where no
qualified ATRs exist to fill vacancies. We are troubled that the DOE
has decided to hire candidates from the Teach for America and Teaching
Fellows programs while shutting the door on graduates from area
schools of education. We believe that the DOE should not give special
preference to one group over another. By giving a blanket “no thanks”
to all education school grads, we risk losing some of the best
teaching candidates to the suburbs, which would undercut the
tremendous progress that New York City has made in improving teacher
quality over the past decade. Remember the teachers who we recruit
through the education colleges and the career ladder program have far
better retention rates; that both increases teacher quality and saves
the money invested in them. Further, if there is a hiring freeze, all
schools should be subject to it; new ones should not be exempt.

While the hiring freeze is a good temporary first step, we ask you to
review the other money-saving proposals that we first presented to you
on Dec. 31, 2008. These proposals could help the DOE save millions of
dollars and run a more cost-effective operation while having minimal
impact on classrooms. Foremost among them, we ask you to reconsider
offering a retirement incentive for veteran teachers. Not only would a
retirement incentive save the school system money (by replacing higher
paid veterans with new hires), but it might allow for a partial
lifting of the hiring freeze, which would give the next generation of
great teachers a chance to begin their careers in New York City public

We hope that you will pay serious attention to our ideas and
concerns. We look forward to working together with you as we navigate
through these difficult economic times. We hope to hear from you soon.

Randi Weingarten, President
United Federation of Teachers

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