Despite a high-profile effort by Mayor Bill de Blasio to reduce the number of city teachers without permanent jobs who draw full pay and benefits, the city spent $136 million this school year to keep them on the payroll, according to a study released Thursday.
The unassigned employees are part of a pool known as the Absent Teacher Reserve, and there were 1,202 teachers and other staff in it at the start of the school year, according to the report by the nonpartisan Citizens Budget Commission. Despite buyouts, mandatory placements in schools and a rule that all unassigned teachers must look for permanent posts, there were still 756 teachers in the pool in April.
Like teachers with full-time classroom assignments, those in the pool are entitled to regular pay raises, step increases and longevity increases, providing “no incentive for unmotivated or unsuitable teachers to secure new permanent placements,” the report notes.
Teachers in the pool have an average of 18 years on the job, and an average salary of $98,126. With a 3 percent raise for all city teachers going into effect on Saturday, combined with a 2 percent raise teachers received in May, senior teachers in the pool could now earn up to $119,472, the report found.
Teachers land in the reserve pool because their schools have been closed, or their budgets cut, or because they were the subject of unsatisfactory performance evaluations or disciplinary actions. They can stay in the pool indefinitely.
The United Federation of Teachers contract with the city expires in November, and the budget commission urged the city to use the contract negotiations to cap the time teachers can spend in the pool at six months.