attn atrs

UFT contract deal includes a "buyout" for out-of-work teachers

PHOTO: Geoff Decker

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.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.


For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.


Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.