last-in first-out

New York

City effort to enlist parents in politics began months ago

For months, Department of Education employees have been trying to mobilize parents to public meetings and to sign petitions in support of city political goals, parent coordinators said today. Evidence of that effort came to light yesterday after a staff member of the DOE's parent outreach office distributed a petition to hundreds of parent coordinators urging state lawmakers to abolish the current seniority-based teacher layoff system. City officials renounced the petition and said that political organizing would stop going forward. But parent coordinators from schools in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens said today that the Office of Family Information and Action's push to have parent coordinators politically mobilize parents began months ago and that the message was spread by several OFIA staffers. The coordinators spoke on condition of anonymity to protect their positions at their schools. In January, OFIA held a parent organizing workshop for parent coordinators in Manhattan. Staffers did not mention advocating against the current layoff system at that meeting, said a parent coordinator who shared detailed notes taken at the session. Instead, staff focused on asking the coordinators to build relationships with satisfied parents who would be willing to show support for the DOE at Panel for Educational Policy meetings. "I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone, honestly, and I didn’t really trust my own ears, so I wrote things down," the parent coordinator said. OFIA officials said that they were frustrated that the panel meetings — which have been frequently contentious — have been dominated by parents angry at city policies. OFIA staff encouraged parent coordinators to bring "Happy Harry" parents to citywide meetings, according to the parent coordinator's notes, rather than "Angry Sally" parents.
New York

City renounces effort to use DOE employees to lobby on LIFO

An office inside the Department of Education improperly recruited its employees to lobby against the state's seniority-based layoff system, city officials acknowledged today. Staff at the city's Office of Family Information and Action asked hundreds of parent coordinators to distribute a petition urging state lawmakers to abolish the current layoff system. In the e-mail, an OFIA staffer asked parent coordinators to gather signatures from parents and other members of their school communities and return them to the DOE. The e-mail message went out to nearly 400 of the 1,000 parent coordinators around the city. The petition asks state lawmakers to "allow the City to keep it's [sic] most effective teachers by ending the State's 'Last-In, First-Out' policy, allowing teachers to be retained based on their performance, rather than just seniority." The message, which was first reported this morning by the teacher activist Norm Scott, echoes the position of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chancellor Cathie Black, who have made ending the seniority-based layoffs this year a chief political goal. The city teachers union strongly opposes ending the system and has argued that the city should instead focus its lobbying efforts on fighting budget cuts. DOE spokeswoman Natalie Ravitz said that the petition had not been approved by top city officials. “While we strongly encourage parents to speak out on issues concerning their children’s education, it was not appropriate for Department of Education staff to prescribe a specific solution for parent coordinators, or parents, to advocate," Ravitz said in a statement.
New York

Teachers group mirrors city recommendations for layoff reforms

New York

In State of the City, mayor calls for an end to seniority layoffs

New York

On his way out, Klein pushes for end to ATR pool, last-in first-out

The final installment of Joel Klein's weekly memo to principals In a nostalgic final missive to city principals this week, outgoing Chancellor Joel Klein suggested three things to do once he's gone. He urged lawmakers to end the last-in first-out process of teacher layoffs, pushed for an end to the Absent Teacher Reserve pool, and underlined his belief in the importance of closing struggling schools. Klein's statement that "we have to eliminate the ATR pool" ratchets up the city's position on the pool of teachers — city teachers who lose their positions, don't find new ones, but stay on the city payroll anyway. Previously, the city has asked the union, in contract negotiations, to add a limit to the amount of time a teacher can spend in the reserve pool. That would make the pool smaller, but it would not cause it to disappear altogether. Describing the costs of keeping those teachers on the city payroll as exceeding $100 million a year, Klein argues: We cannot afford it, and it's wrong to keep paying this money. It amounts to supporting more than a thousand teachers who either don't care to, or can't, find a job, even though our school system hires literally thousands of teachers each year. That's money that could be spent on teachers that we desperately want and need. Klein also describes teacher layoffs as a sure thing. "I wish it were otherwise, but the economics of our state and city make this virtually impossible to avoid," he writes. The Bloomberg administration has a history of being bullish on layoffs in order to push for the end of the state law regulating how teachers lose their jobs. Klein reiterates that case in his letter: If we have layoffs, it's unconscionable to use the last-hired, first-fired rule that currently governs. By definition, such a rule means that quality counts for zero. Our children cannot afford that kind of approach. They need the best teachers, not those who are longest serving. (If you had to have surgery, would you want the longest-serving surgeon or the best one?) This doesn't mean that many of our longest-serving teachers aren't among the best, but this is not an area for "group think." We need individual determinations of teacher effectiveness to decide who stays and who doesn't. Klein also quoted his favorite T.S. Eliot poem, "Little Gidding," excerpting four cryptic lines that seem to summarize his "odyssey" as something more complex than a straight line of a progress: We shall not cease from exploration / And the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time. Other curious lines from the poem: ... Either you had no purpose Or the purpose is beyond the end you figured And is altered in fulfilment. ... Klein has sent a memo to principals every week for years. Read the full letter here and below.
New York

Bloomberg vows last-in first-out crackdown, new tenure policy

Mayor Bloomberg on NBC today, announcing a crackdown on seniority-based layoffs and a new tenure policy. In his first major education policy announcement for the new school year, Mayor Michael Bloomberg this morning vowed a renewed attack on seniority laws that protect veteran teachers and a change in how teachers are awarded tenure. He made the remarks on NBC, which is dedicating this week to school reporting in a project called "Education Nation." The attack on seniority laws came as city officials made a dire budget prediction for next year, saying that they will likely have to lay off public school teachers as federal stimulus funding runs out. Under the current state law, teachers with the least seniority would be the first to lose their jobs — a policy known as "last in, first out." The mayor and Chancellor Joel Klein oppose this policy, but their effort to change the law, which the teachers union does support, went nowhere last year. Today, the mayor said he would try dismantling the policy again before the city confronts an expected $700 million budget hole and possible layoffs next year. "It's time for us to end the 'last-in, first out' layoff policy that puts children at risk here in New York — and across our wonderful country," Bloomberg said on NBC. "How could anyone argue that this is good for children? The law is nothing more than special interest politics, and we're going to get rid of it before it hurts our kids," he added. Teachers union officials immediately squashed any possibility that they might partner with the mayor.