human capital

Klein to principals: Hiring restrictions probably won't be lifted

Schools Chancellor Joel Klein warned of “unacceptable financial consequences” today if principals do not accelerate their hiring.

In an e-mail today, Klein encouraged principals to list and fill their open positions as soon as possible to help reduce the number of teachers without jobs. If a principal can’t pay for a teacher, the teacher goes into a pool of “excessed” teachers whose salaries are paid by the department. If the size of the pool swells, the department could end up shouldering thousands of teachers’ salaries — all while the teachers aren’t officially on a school’s staff.

Klein emphasized that principals should plan to fill their vacancies with teachers who already work in the system, especially the more than 2,300 who currently lack a permanent position. “You should be aware that excessing conditions make it unlikely that we will lift hiring restrictions across the board,” he wrote. Restrictions have been lifted in a handful of specific license areas, most recently in special education, where the hiring freeze was lifted yesterday.

Some have speculated that principals might try to evade the hiring restrictions by not listing their open positions publicly before the “open market” period of teacher hiring ends next week.

“That’s maybe what some of them were trying to do and that’s why we had Joel send out the e-mail today,” said Photo Anagnastopoulos, the department’s chief operating officer.

There are currently about 2,400 teaching positions open in the city schools and about 2,340 teachers who don’t have positions, according to data released by the Department of Education today.

Nearly 2,000 teaching positions were cut at the end of the school year, the “overwhelming majority” because of budget cuts that totaled as much as 8 percent of schools’ budgets over the course of the last school year, department officials said today. The numbers released today marked the first time since principals submitted their budgets June 18 that the department disclosed how many positions had been cut.

Since the end of June, fewer than 400 of the teachers whose positions were cut at the end of the school year have been hired by other schools, according to the department.

The city’s excess pool currently has 1,570 teachers whose jobs were cut this year and 770 teachers whose jobs were eliminated in the past. The latter number is down from about 1,100 teachers in the pool at the end of April. About 300 of those teachers were offered permanent positions at schools since then.

Department officials say they are “pretty confident” that the number of teachers without positions will settle back to about 1,100 by shortly after the school year begins. “Right now it’s pretty much where we thought it would be,” Anagnastopoulos said today.

In addition to the 2,340 teachers currently without positions, there are also 300 school psychologists and social workers who do not have jobs at schools but whose salaries are being paid by the department.

Teachers are protected from layoffs, even if they do not land a position in a school. No such protection exists for the 900 excessed school aides, paraprofessionals, and other people who do not belong to the city teachers union. There are only about 100 openings for those kind of positions. 

Here’s Klein’s complete letter to principals:

Dear Colleagues,

I wanted to give you an update on the hiring restrictions and how they impact our overall budget situation for the upcoming school year.

When we implemented the hiring restrictions in May, we did so to ensure that the size and cost of the excessed staff pool did not grow to the point where even more cuts would be required. I am aware that these restrictions limit your choices, but this policy is the only way to preserve your ability to select your own staff, a hard fought change in school hiring that we sought and achieved based on your feedback.

We continue to monitor the excess situation on a daily basis. A number of you have already selected internal candidates, including excessed staff, to fill your vacancies. But even with these hires, we still have many teachers in excess. As a result, we need to work together before the start of the school year to avoid any year-to-year increase in the number of teachers in excess and avoid unacceptable financial consequences. I am sure some of you are waiting to either declare or fill vacancies with the hope that hiring restrictions will be lifted soon. While I understand your desire to staff your schools with the candidates you feel will be the best fit, you should be aware that excessing conditions make it unlikely that we will lift hiring restrictions across the board in any other subject areas. To date, we lifted the hiring restrictions for almost all districts in special education and for all schools in other shortage areas, such as bilingual special education, speech, and most sciences.  Prospectively, there may be some targeted lifting of restrictions – in specific districts and subjects – but I anticipate even those targeted exceptions will be very limited. As we continue to monitor the situation, we may even need to re-impose some hiring restrictions in areas where we have lifted them.

Given these circumstances, you should not hold back on creating and filling vacancies. The best internal candidates – both teachers in excess and other teachers seeking transfers – are available now and the widest possible pool exists during the Open Market Transfer period, which by contract closes on August 7. It is crucial that you are staffed appropriately for the opening of school and therefore should create and fill vacancies as quickly as possible from the current pool of available internal candidates. Your HR Partner and the Office of Teacher Recruitment & Quality can assist you in identifying internal candidates. Many of the teachers in excess are relatively new teachers who you and your colleagues hired one, two or three years ago; many others are also dedicated teachers who could be a good fit for your school. Some excessed teachers can be hired with a subsidy, whereby central will bear a significant part of the cost even after you hire them.

I am aware that some schools will have staffing needs for short and long term absences. Please remember that you cannot use per diems and F-status staff to cover vacancies; this is something we will be monitoring. Per our agreement with the UFT, if you need to fill a vacancy caused by a leave or a sabbatical, you can hire excessed staff on a provisional basis. A provisional hire means that you are hiring the individual for only this coming year. At the end of the school year, that teacher will return to the excess pool unless you both agree he or she should remain on your staff. Questions about this process, subsidies or other matters pertaining to excesses should be directed to your HR liaison in the ISC or CFN.

Only by working together can we successfully navigate this challenging situation. I realize that you have already had to make difficult and painful decisions as a result of current budget conditions. In the case of staffing, however, critical steps remain. To the extent that vacancies are not scheduled or that the process of filling them is being delayed, the actions of individual schools have the potential to negatively impact all of our schools. I am deeply grateful for all that you are already doing to make the best choices for your school under difficult circumstances, but I ask that you please move expeditiously to schedule and fill your vacancies.

Sincerely,

Joel I. Klein

that was weird

The D.C. school system had a pitch-perfect response after John Oliver made #DCPublicSchools trend on Twitter

Public education got some unexpected attention Sunday night when John Oliver asked viewers watching the Emmys to make #DCPublicSchools trend on Twitter.

Oliver had been inspired by comedian Dave Chappelle, who shouted out the school system he attended before he announced an award winner. Within a minute of Oliver’s request, the hashtag was officially trending.

Most of the tweets had nothing to do with schools in Washington, D.C.

Here are a few that did, starting with this pitch-perfect one from the official D.C. Public Schools account:

Oliver’s surreal challenge was far from the first time that the late-show host has made education a centerpiece of his comedy — over time, he has pilloried standardized testing, school segregation, and charter schools.

Nor was it the first education hashtag to take center stage at an awards show: #PublicSchoolProud, which emerged as a response to new U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, got a shoutout during the Oscars in February.

And it also is not the first time this year that D.C. schools have gotten a surprise burst of attention. The Oscars were just a week after DeVos drew fire for criticizing the teachers she met during her first school visit as secretary — to a D.C. public school.

Startup Support

Diverse charter schools in New York City to get boost from Walton money

PHOTO: John Bartelstone
Students at Brooklyn Prospect Charter School in 2012. The school is one of several New York City charters that aim to enroll diverse student bodies.

The Walton Family Foundation, the philanthropy governed by the family behind Walmart, pledged Tuesday to invest $2.2 million over the next two years in new charter schools in New York City that aim to be socioeconomically diverse.

Officials from the foundation expect the initiative to support the start of about seven mixed-income charter schools, which will be able to use the money to pay for anything from building space to teachers to technology.

The effort reflects a growing interest in New York and beyond in establishing charter schools that enroll students from a mix of backgrounds, which research suggests can benefit students and is considered one remedy to school segregation.

“We are excited to help educators and leaders on the front lines of solving one of today’s most pressing education challenges,” Marc Sternberg, the foundation’s K-12 education director and a former New York City education department official, said in a statement.

Walton has been a major charter school backer, pouring more than $407 million into hundreds of those schools over the past two decades. In New York, the foundation has helped fund more than 100 new charter schools. (Walton also supports Chalkbeat; read about our funding here.)

Some studies have found that black and Hispanic students in charter schools are more likely to attend predominantly nonwhite schools than their peers in traditional schools, partly because charter schools tend to be located in urban areas and are often established specifically to serve low-income students of color. In New York City, one report found that 90 percent of charter schools in 2010 were “intensely segregated,” meaning fewer than 10 percent of their students were white.

However, more recently, a small but rising number of charter schools has started to take steps to recruit and enroll a more diverse student body. Often, they do this by drawing in applicants from larger geographic areas than traditional schools can and by adjusting their admissions lotteries to reserve seats for particular groups, such as low-income students or residents of nearby housing projects.

Founded in 2014, the national Diverse Charter Schools Coalition now includes more than 100 schools in more than a dozen states. Nine New York City charter groups are part of the coalition, ranging from individual schools like Community Roots Charter School in Brooklyn to larger networks, including six Success Academy schools.

“There’s been a real shift in the charter school movement to think about how they address the issue of segregation,” said Halley Potter, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a think tank that promotes socioeconomic diversity.

The Century Foundation and researchers at Teachers College at Columbia University and Temple University will receive additional funding from Walton to study diverse charter schools, with the universities’ researchers conducting what Walton says is the first peer-reviewed study of those schools’ impact on student learning.