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The Logical Next Step in an Illogical System

As I have written in the past (here and here), there is an excess supply of people that want to teach in New York City. Back in November, on a panel at a Teach For America alumni summit, Vicki Bernstein, the Executive Director of Teacher Recruitment and Quality for the DOE, confirmed this fact and pointed out the upside of the situation: schools could be more selective in future teacher placements.

For most traditional public schools, that upside disappeared yesterday.

As GothamSchools reported, Chancellor Klein’s latest memo instructs principals to restrict their teacher hiring to “existing DOE staff, as opposed to people from outside the system.” This includes informal commitments already made to prospective candidates: “You should reach out to these people and tell them that they will have to wait; those jobs might not actually be there and that you are unable to hire them at this time. We are making no commitment to candidates, including Teach for America and Teaching Fellows candidates…”

So traditional public schools in NYC can only hire existing teachers, including a large number in the “excess pool”, i.e. teachers that lost their past jobs and have been unable to find a new position. Teachers in the excess pool, though, still get paid. This creates the financial problem: “We are imposing these restrictions because we cannot afford to support a growing excess pool, which currently includes 1,400 staff in all titles.”

In other words, traditional public schools can’t hire the teachers they would like to, because the DOE continues to pay teachers that no school has wanted to hire.

Randi Weingarten, president of the teachers’ union, is pleased:

“I give them credit for seeing what a waste of talent and money this is, and for actually switching gears.” Kafka would have loved Randi Weingarten.

New schools are given more flexibility: “All new schools must hire at least 50% from current staff (from the closing school or elsewhere in the system), but will be able to hire 50% of their teachers from outside of the system.”

Charter schools are not subject to the rules at all. As a result, their competitive advantage has increased. The exodus of parents away from traditional public schools will continue.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.

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