explainer

More answers to your teacher layoff questions: when, who, how

A week ago, I posted a Q&A about teacher layoffs and many readers left comments with more questions. Last time the questions were invented (or overheard on the subway). This time they’re from you.

My chapter leader told me layoff notices will go out on June 4. Is that true?
Not necessarily. While the union and the Department of Education discussed that date as a possibility, it depended on principals receiving their budgets by today. That has not happened — when principals logged into their internal budget system this morning they were greeted with an announcement saying their new budgets had been delayed. It didn’t say until when, so layoff notices could come out days or weeks from now.

If I lose my job, will I be placed in another school?
There are two ways of losing your job. If you are excessed, it means your school can no longer afford to keep you on staff, but you are still a public school employee and you remain on the city’s payroll while you look for a new teaching position in the system. If you are laid off, you’ve lost your job in every sense.

Teachers who are excessed will not be placed into vacancies at other schools. They will find new jobs by applying through the open market system, going through an interview process, and being selected by a principal. Under the open market system, no one can be forced to take a certain job or be “bumped” out of her current job.

There’s a potential problem though: the open market system could fail. Principals could refuse to hire from the pool of excessed teachers. Last summer, when the city required most principals to hire all but their science and special education teachers from the Absent Teacher Reserve, many of them dragged out the hiring process until the last minute in hopes the rules would change. Some found ways around the hiring freeze.

If the open market system doesn’t work, city officials could use forced placement to fill vacancies. Excessed teachers would be placed in schools based on their seniority, with the most senior teacher getting the first open spot in his license area. If a teacher’s last job was at an elementary or middle school, he’ll be placed into vacancies in the district he came from.

Another option would be for the city it have its contract negotiation wish come true: the excess teacher pool would be drained by laying off people who’ve been unable to find a job for a year.

How will layoffs affect guidance counselors?
Guidance counselors will be affected the same way teachers will be. City officials will count out how many counselors to lay off based on their projections of how many counselors principals will excess. In some cases, officials could predict that the loss of a school’s only guidance counselor would hurt graduation rates too much, and leave that job intact. In other cases, they could decide guidance counselors are expendable.

I’m a high school math teacher finishing my third year. My file number has been in the system longer than that because I spent a year as a substitute. Can anyone shed some light on my chances of surviving the budget cuts?
Your chance of not being laid off is as good as any other third year math teacher’s. Having an older file number doesn’t increase your seniority in the position you currently hold.

weekend update

How the education world is reacting to racist violence in Charlottesville — and to Trump’s muted response

PHOTO: Andrew Dallos/Flickr
A rally against hate in Tarrytown, New York, responds to the violence in Charlottesville.

For educators across the country, this weekend’s eruption of racism and violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, offered yet another painful opportunity to communicate their values to families, colleagues, and community members.

Many decried the white supremacists who convened in the college town and clashed with protesters who had come to oppose their message. Some used social media to outline ideas about how to turn the distressing news into a teaching moment.

And others took issue with President Donald Trump’s statement criticizing violence “on many sides,” largely interpreted as an unwillingness to condemn white supremacists.

One leading education official, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, followed Trump’s approach, criticizing what happened but not placing blame on anyone in particular:

DeVos’s two most recent predecessors were unequivocal, both about what unfolded in Charlottesville and whom to blame:

Leaders of the nation’s two largest teachers unions responded directly to Trump:

The American Federation of Teachers, Weingarten’s union, is supporting vigils across the country Sunday night organized by chapters of Indivisible, a coalition that emerged to resist the Trump administration. The union also promoted resources from Share My Lesson, its lesson-plan site, that deal with civil rights and related issues.

“As educators, we will continue to fulfill our responsibility to make sure our students feel safe and protected and valued for who they are,” Weingarten said in a statement with other AFT officials.

Local education officials took stands as well, often emotionally. Here’s what the superintendent in Memphis, which is engaged in the same debate about whether Confederate memorials should continue to stand that drew white supremacists to Charlottesville, said on Twitter:

Teachers in Hopson’s district return for the second week of classes on Monday. They’ve helped students process difficult moments before, such as a spate of police killings of black men in 2016; here’s advice they shared then and advice that teachers across the country offered up.

We want to hear from educators who are tackling this tough moment in their classrooms. Share your experiences and ideas here or in the form below. 

Betsy DeVos

‘Underperformer,’ ‘bully,’ and a ‘mermaid with legs’: NYMag story slams Betsy DeVos

PHOTO: New York Magazine
A drawing of DeVos commissioned by an 8-year-old starts the New York Magazine article.

A new article detailing Betsy DeVos’s first six months as U.S. education secretary concludes that she’s “a mermaid with legs: clumsy, conspicuous, and unable to move forward.”

That’s just one of several brutal critiques of DeVos’s leadership and effectiveness in the New York Magazine story, by Lisa Miller, who has previously covered efforts to overhaul high schools, New York City’s pre-kindergarten push, and the apocalypse. Here are some highlights:

  • Bipartisan befuddlement: The story summarizes the left’s well known opposition to DeVos’s school choice agenda. But her political allies also say she’s making unnecessary mistakes: “Most mystifying to those invested in her success is why DeVos hasn’t found herself some better help.”
  • A friend’s defense: DeVos is “muzzled” by the Trump administration, said her friend and frequent defender Kevin Chavous, a school choice activist.
  • The department reacts: “More often than not press statements are being written by career staff,” a spokesperson told Miller, rejecting claims that politics are trumping policy concerns.
  • D.C. colleagues speak: “When you talk to her, it’s a blank stare,” said Charles Doolittle, who quit the Department of Education in June. A current education department employee says: “It’s not clear that the secretary is making decisions or really capable of understanding the elements of a good decision.”
  • Kids critique: The magazine commissioned six portraits of DeVos drawn by grade-schoolers.
  • Special Olympics flip-flop: DeVos started out saying she was proud to partner with the athletics competition for people with disabilities — and quickly turned to defending a budget that cuts the program’s funding.
  • In conclusion: DeVos is an underperformer,” a “bully” and “ineffective,” Miller found based on her reporting.

Updated (July 31, 2017): A U.S. Education Department spokesperson responded to our request for comment, calling the New York Magazine story “nothing more than a hit piece.” Said Liz Hill: “The magazine clearly displayed its agenda by writing a story based on largely disputed claims and then leaving out of the article the many voices of those who are excited by the Secretary’s leadership and determination to improve education in America.”