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CEJ: Hiring costs at turnaround schools could top $60 million

Replacing teachers at the remaining 26 turnaround schools could cost the city as much as $60 million, according to a new analysis released today by one of the city’s most vociferous opponents.

The report, released by the Coalition for Educational Justice in advance of an organized student and parent protest at City Hall, also took aim at the process the Department of Education used to assessed many of the schools that remain on the turnaround list. A dozen schools are doing well enough on their annual progress reports that they cleared the city’s own closure benchmark.

The CEJ cost analysis found that up to 849 teachers in the 26 schools could be replaced in order to qualify for federal school improvement grants, which require that no more than 50 percent of teachers can be retained under the turnaround model. The analysis omitted teachers who were hired in the last two years because they are likely to be exempted from the total pool of teachers that must reapply to their positions.

The final figures will almost certainly be less than CEJ’s projections because DOE officials have begun telling principals they won’t be on the hook any specific number of teachers.

The report details the salary and tenure profile at each of the 26 schools. For instance, teachers at John Dewey High School, where college-readiness rates exceed the city average, earned the highest average salary, $82,641, and just 7 percent of its staff was hired in the last two years. At Banana Kelly, where more than half of its teaching staff joined the school in recent years, just one teacher would need to be removed at the school to qualify for the funds.

The report is based on data from 2006-2010 and it’s not clear if the DOE is using more updated figures for its own budget assessment. Here’s a screen shot that details the number of teachers and their average teacher salaries.

A DOE spokesman responding to the report would not comment on CEJ’s cost estimation, but he stressed that turnaround principals will not be required to replace 50 percent of their staff if they think it didn’t make sense.

“Our goal is for principals to hire the best staff they can to help their students succeed, without worrying about a specific number,” emailed the spokesman, Frank Thomas.

The city is already hedging away from the aggressive reform plan laid out by Mayor Bloomberg in his January State of the City speech. Earlier this week, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott removed seven schools that had earned A’s and B’s on its last progress report. A day later, when asked if there was a chance that more schools could be saved, he said that final decisions have not been made.

“We’re going through a process now, through our joint public hearings,” Walcott said. “People raised their questions and after the hearings, again, I’ll take a look at the questions and we’ll make decisions and see what happens from there.”Turnaround Report 4.5.12

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