Thursday, October 30, 2014

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City Buyout Offer for Teachers Does Not Prove Popular

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For the first time, the city offered 1,300 teachers the option to resign or retire with severance, but the deal did not prove to be popular. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

The city offered a buyout package to James Eterno, a teacher who is still receiving a paycheck but no longer has a classroom. He turned it down.

"It's definitely insulting to take people who've worked their whole lives in education and say, 'Here, we'll give you $10,000 to just leave,' as if you could just go run and find another job," Eterno said. "It was ridiculous."

Eterno isn't alone. 90 percent of the 1,300 educators eligible for a severance deal rejected it.

For almost a decade, officials have been trying to find a way to get this group off the payroll. In many cases, their schools were closed for poor performance by the Bloomberg administration, and the teachers, protected by tenure, have been unable to find new positions.

Eterno worked at Jamaica High School, which held its final graduation this June.

"I'll go out on whatever interviews they send me on," he said. "Hopefully, a principal will pick me up and I'll be teaching."

At any given time, there are about 1,000 teachers in the so-called Absent Teacher Reserve, or ATR, pool. Some find jobs within weeks, but others work as roving substitutes for years, costing the city more than $100 million annually.

The buyout attempt is part of the new teachers' union contract, which includes several measures aimed at reducing the ATR pool.

One hundred and fifteen educators accepted the deal and will be paid based on how long they've been working in the system. Officials peg the average payout at about $16,000, for a total of $1.8 million.

While the DOE claims it doesn't know how many of the teachers who accepted the buyout are retiring versus resigning, the group has an average salary of $93,000, which suggests many, if not most, are eligible for retirement and can begin collecting their pensions as soon as they begin collecting their buyout. Which means that when the school year opens, the Absent Teacher Reserve may be just as large, and expensive, as it's been in years past.

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