Thursday, August 27, 2009

The 80 Million Dollar Stare Down

Right now, Joel Klein and city principals are in the midst of a very expensive staring contest. Klein has imposed a hiring freeze, but principals are hoping he blinks before the opening of school and lets them hire non-ATRs to fill their vacancies.

According to Gotham Schools, only about 300 ATRs found jobs in the last month, despite a mandate from the chancellor that principals hire only from the ATR pool. So with less than two weeks to go before school starts, there remain 1800 openings and 2100 ATRs. It doesn't take a mathematical genius to figure that we could fill the former with the latter. The question is, does Klein really want this?

Many skeptics, myself included, believe Joel's gambit on ATRs to be a negotiating ploy for the next contract. He will whine that he tried to place those pesky teachers, but nothing happened. He will then demand a clause in the contract asking for ATRs to be fired after a specified time in the pool. He'll try to trade some pittance like making the 37 1.2 minutes into 36 1/2 minutes, hoping the UFT will grab it and declare victory.

But this is risky business. This is, after all, an election year for Bloomberg, presumptive mayor for life. What if the UFT says no? (hard to fathom, I know, but possible). Klein brought this situation about by closing large numbers of schools. The 80 million or so per year the ATR pool costs the city is a huge blot on the "education mayor". Klein could fix the problem any time he wants, if he has the will to do so. He's gambling that the UFT will help him get these teachers fired, but this is, as Chaz points out, a tenure issue, and tenure is supposedly off the table in the upcoming negotiations.

I hope the Democratic mayoral hopefuls, Tony Avella and Bill Thompson, address this issue swiftly and put Klein on the hot seat. If the UFT or the candidates show any gumption at all, they could force Klein to blink.

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