season of searching

Plans to shutter schools will force more than 400 New York City teachers to search for new jobs

PHOTO: Patrick Wall
New York City closed the Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation, where a student was stabbed to death, at the end of the school year.

Teachers mostly wore grim expressions as they walked out of the Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation Monday afternoon. They had just left a staff meeting where their principal and superintendent explained that the school would be shut down after this year.

“It’s devastating,” one teacher said as she walked briskly to her car. “Now I need to look for a new job.”

That same day, the New York City education department announced plans to close 14 schools across four boroughs, which would leave more than 400 educators searching for new jobs after the school year ends. What’s next for those teachers depends on the city’s plans for their schools — and whether principals want to hire them.

The city will replace some of the shuttered schools with new ones, where the displaced teachers would get first dibs on a portion of the spots. In schools that close and are not replaced, teachers will have to look for jobs elsewhere.

Those who don’t get hired will enter the Absent Teacher Reserve, a pool of teachers who lost their permanent positions or have faced legal or disciplinary problems but still collect full salaries. An influx of new teachers could set back Mayor Bill de Blasio’s quest to shrink the pool, which cost the city $152 million last year.

But the education department said it expects most of the teachers will find their way into permanent classrooms. Only 10 out of roughly 130 educators who were impacted by closures last year still remain in the reserve, according to department figures.

“We’re confident that we’ll be able help teachers at closing schools secure new positions for next year,” education department spokesman Michael Aciman said in an email.

Many of the closing schools have been struggling for years, which could put a stain on teachers as they interview for new positions.

But according to education department data, 92 percent of the schools’ teachers were rated effective or highly effective — not much lower than the 97 percent of teachers citywide who earned positive reviews. On average, they have nine years of experience.

At a press conference Monday, schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said the education department had worked to attract more highly rated teachers and those with leadership experience to the low-performing schools in the city’s “Renewal” turnaround program, which includes nine of the closing schools.

“Our expectation is that, in many of these schools, we now have a higher level of teacher,” she said.

Both the education department and United Federation of Teachers say they will work to match teachers to open positions. Every year, the city hires about 6,000 new teachers.

Education department officials said they will help teachers find openings in their license areas, review their resumes and provide interview coaching, and organize recruitment events. Union officials promised to provide similar supports.

“We will work with the DOE and the teachers to provide whatever assistance is needed,” union spokesman Dick Riley said in an email.

In cases where the city opens news schools to replace those it shuts down, half of the new teaching positions must be reserved for educators from the closed schools, according to the teachers contract. However, teachers from the closed schools must still choose to apply for the positions, and have licenses that match the openings. They also have to be qualified under the criteria for the job.

The city also plans to combine some small schools. In those cases, the union expects that many teachers will simply be absorbed into the consolidated schools — though it’s possible some of their positions may be eliminated.

Patrick Wall contributed reporting.

hot off the presses

A silver medal for Detroit pre-K. Now where are the kids?

PHOTO: Getty Images

Detroit has earned a silver rating, the second-highest possible, in a national ranking of urban preschool programs published Wednesday. But the report by the advocacy group CityHealth also says that too few eligible 4-year-olds are enrolled.

CityHealth, a foundation-funded organization that rates America’s largest urban centers based on their public policies, looked at how big cities stack up in offering preschool programs in a report published Wednesday.

Researchers at the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University conducted the study and compiled the report.

Following standards set by the largest state-funded pre-K organization, the Great Start Readiness Program, Detroit requires teachers in state preschool to have at least a bachelor’s degree, limits class sizes, and requires health screenings of children.

Those are some of the hallmarks of a high-quality program, according to CityHealth.

Only eight of the 40 cities whose policies were reviewed earned a silver rating, and only five earned the top gold rating. A handful of cities — Indianapolis and Phoenix, Arizona, among them — were far behind, with low enrollment and few or none of CityHealth’s model policies in place.

Still, the gap in Detroit’s pre-K system is a big one. The city has far fewer pre-K seats than it reportedly needs. That’s the case in many of America’s largest cities, according to CityHealth. In nearly half of the cities studied, pre-K programs reached less than one-third of the cities’ pre-schoolers.

The lack of preschool slots is one reason advocates from Michigan’s largest cities are pushing lawmakers to put early childhood on the agenda in Lansing. And it’s part of why Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan has gotten behind the idea of a expanded pre-K system for Detroit.

Read the full report here:

School Funding 101

Report: Michigan has biggest school funding decline in nation

How’s this for a grim school funding statistic: A new report out Wednesday says total revenue for Michigan schools declined 30 percent from 2002 to 2015 — the largest decline for any state over the past quarter century.

The statistic, adjusted for inflation, is among findings of a report by researchers at Michigan State University that reviews school funding and recommends how the state can improve.

“Michigan has tried to improve schools on the cheap, focusing on more accountability and school choice,” wrote David Arsen, lead author and professor of education policy. “To make those policies effective, they have to be matched with adequate funding. We have been kidding ourselves to think we can move forward while cutting funding for schools.”

Co-authors are Tanner Delpier and Jesse Nagel, MSU doctoral students.

Here are a few of the highlights in the report — which is aimed at spurring public discussion of how to improve school funding in the state. The data were adjusted for inflation:

  • Dead last: Where Michigan ranks in total education revenue growth since the mid-90s, when the state’s current school funding formula was developed.
  • 60 percent: How much funding for at-risk students has declined since 2001.
  • 22 percent: How much per-pupil revenue declined from 2002 to 2015.

 The report comes about a year after the bipartisan School Finance Research Collaborative released a comprehensive set of recommendations for fixing the school funding system in Michigan. The MSU report provides a review of that report and adopts many of its recommendations.

It also comes after a December lame-duck legislative session in Michigan that ended with lawmakers voting to shift some funding from the state School Aid Fund to other priorities, such as road repairs and environmental cleanups.

Officials from the Tri-County Alliance for Public Education, a group that represents educators in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties, said the MSU report should be a wake-up call for lawmakers. They said it confirms that Michigan’s K-12 funding is in crisis.

“Lawmakers need to stop hiding behind talking points that claim they are investing in our schools when the reality is our funding hasn’t even kept up with the rate of inflation, let alone the increased cost of the services we are being asked to provide our students,” said George Heitsch, president of the alliance and superintendent of Farmington Public Schools. “When you see the numbers from this report showing the drastic funding cuts that have been forced on our schools in recent years, it should be no wonder why our state ranks at the bottom in reading and math proficiency. This simply has to change because our students deserve better.”

Read the full report for more information and recommendations: