Mayor Bloomberg has put together a list of schools that will be affected if the city has to lay off more than 4,500 teachers because of state cuts to education. Most of the schools are in poorly served neighborhoods, because that’s where most of the city’s youngest teachers work. If City Hall has to abide by state law requiring layoffs by seniority, or lack thereof, the young teachers in poor communities will be the first to go.
This would be a tragedy on many levels. But beyond the tragedy is a scandal. The very union that has fought against all efforts to reward merit and banish mediocrity actually pulls teachers out of the classroom so they can work on union business. Some of those teachers earn sizable salaries courtesy of city taxpayers even as they collect very good salaries from the United Federation of Teachers. And it gets worse–the city has to pay for substitutes to fill in for these double-dipping teachers.
According to the Post, about 40 senior teachers earn salaries as high as $100,000 a year but spend just one period a day in the classroom. They spend most of their workday on union business, earning up to $56,000 a year. Meanwhile, hundreds of other teachers are given time during the day to attend to UFT business, which generally consists of thwarting the public good.
The city has to pay more than $9 million a year to hire substitutes for the non-teaching teachers, a sum that would help save the jobs of dozens of teachers. (The UFT, which collects more than $100 million a year in dues, writes a check for about $900,000 to reimburse this cost.)
If public-employee unions want to know why they are losing the public-relations war–in New York and elsewhere–the UFT’s non-teaching teachers should be Exhibit A in how not to win over taxpayers. The UFT has every right to employ a staff dedicated to the proposition that change must be stopped, that antiquated work rules are sacrosanct and that accountability must be avoided at all costs. But taxpayers should not have to subsidize this bizarre activity.
If the union were concerned about students, it would stop taking teachers out of the classroom and work with Mr. Bloomberg to develop a more equitable approach to seemingly inevitable layoffs.
The UFT continues to be an advocate for the unacceptable status quo. And that, too, is a tragedy–and a scandal.