The city will pay jobless teachers to quit if they aren’t interested in working in schools, according to an internal Department of Education memo explaining the provisions of the proposed teachers union contract agreement.
The plan, likely to be controversial with some teachers union members, was not mentioned in any of the public announcements about the deal by the union or city officials. But it would be another way for the city to reduce a pool of 1,200 out-of-work teachers who are still on the city’s payroll.
United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew has previously said he is open to negotiating financial incentives for the city’s excessed teacher pool, called the absent teacher reserve. But some UFT members see it as a move to maneuver teachers out of the system even if they haven’t been removed through termination proceedings.
“When you start setting up different tiers within the union, I think that gets into really dangerous territory and impacts solidarity,” said Julie Cavanagh, a special education teacher at P.S. 15 in Red Hook and former candidate for UFT president.
But city officials acknowledge that some teachers in the pool aren’t motivated to find full-time jobs. Sixty-one percent of teachers in the ATR pool hadn’t applied for teaching positions during last summer’s hiring season, Department of Education officials told arbitrators who were mediating the UFT contract dispute last year.
A solution is to offer “a buyout to encourage people who really aren’t interested in teaching to leave the profession,” according to the department memo.
It’s unclear how, exactly, the city will look to incentivize teachers to leave. Several sources said the city would only offer a cash-based severance package to resign, though the department’s use of the word “buyout” could suggest that teachers would also receive years of pension credit to retire early.
In 2012, proposals ranged from $14,000 to $25,000, or from 20 percent to 25 percent of a teacher’s annual salary, according to conflicting accounts shared by the city and the union released after private talks broke down.
The contract agreement also limits teachers in the ATR pool to two trial periods in schools looking to fill full-time vacancies, and provides for an expedited termination process for the teachers whose principals bring them up on misconduct charges.
A spokeswoman for the union declined to comment on whether a buyout or severance proposal was part of the contract. A department spokeswoman also declined to comment on the memo.
The new details, obtained by Chalkbeat, emerged on Monday as the UFT’s 89-member executive board approved the proposed contract, which will now be sent to the union’s delegate assembly. The 3,400-member assembly is set to discuss the agreement at a meeting on Wednesday, though a final contract still hasn’t been drafted.