The city’s pool of excessed teachers is about the same size as it was this time last year, according to data released by the education department Friday.
The latest numbers show that 1,083 teachers were collecting salaries and benefits without holding full-time positions in schools last month, compared to 1,102 in January 2015. Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city teachers union have pledged to reduce the size of the pool, which swelled under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and costs the city millions of dollars each year.
Teachers can be placed into the Absent Teacher Reserve after their job is eliminated at a school or for disciplinary reasons.
The reserve shrunk during de Blasio’s first year in office, and he has said he wants the pool to grow smaller by removing poor teachers from the school system and by helping qualified teachers find jobs. The new union contract included provisions aimed at making it easier for teachers to interview at schools and a buyout offer that 115 teachers and school staff took.
The pool typically shrinks over the course of the school year as teachers find jobs, and the new data shows that the city succeeded in placing about 500 teachers in full-time positions in both fall 2014 and fall 2015. But officials have been less successful at reducing the overall size of the pool.
Still, the education department claimed the numbers as a victory Friday. Officials pointed out that the pool did not increase in size, as it did for years under the Bloomberg administration, and linked the two-year decline to changes in the teacher contract.
“In past years the number of teachers in the ATR pool tended to go up year over year,” said education department spokeswoman Devora Kaye. “We are glad the overall trend is down and we have been able to maintain that decline this year.”
It remains unclear whether the decline is actually due to the new provisions in the contract. Since January 2014, education department officials said 450 teachers have exited the system. However, they did not provide a breakdown of why those teachers left or how many retired.
Of the 289 teachers that left the school system between April 2014 and February 2015, nearly 200 took buyouts or retired, according to a Chalkbeat analysis last March.
Another reason the pool has stabilized is the de Blasio administration’s aversion to closing schools. Under Bloomberg, the city aggressively closed poor-performing schools, sending excessed teachers who did not immediately find jobs elsewhere into the pool. But de Blasio has announced the city will shutter only three schools this year.
For their part, teachers union officials said they hope the city continues helping excessed teachers find jobs within the city school system.
“It is in everyone’s interest to find permanent positions for all the teachers who want it,” a UFT spokeswoman said.
The numbers released Friday only described classroom teachers and did not include other school workers such as guidance counselors or social workers.