Saturday, August 29, 2009

Hiring Freeze Frenzy

Today the New York Times ran an article about the hiring freeze in NYC titled "Amid Hiring Freeze, Principals Leave Jobs Empty." Basically the freeze on hiring means that no one can be hired as a teacher who didn't already hold a teaching certificate last year. I've been pretty riled up about the whole situation and it seems a little common sense would clear it up.

Point 1
New York City has 1,500 schools. Among them are some of the most difficult to staff in the country. Principals EVERY year at this time are scrounging to find decent candidates to put on their payrolls- candidates that will survive the first year in a new school and that will actually teach their students something. There is a reason so many millions of dollars are used to recruit people to work in New York. People are brought from around the world (Philippines, Austria, etc.) to fill vacancies because there are not enough qualified candidates to go around.

I talked just a bit in my previous post about how poor/mentally deranged some of these candidates are. While the union thinks it's protecting its workers by making sure they are given jobs before new hires, it certainly isn't protecting the students. The people who have been unable to find a position for the past year or two probably should never be given a position. These principals are not "quietly defying" the hiring freeze. This is New York City!! If someone is going to defy something like this they'll scream it from the rooftops. These principals are looking out for the best interests of their students by NOT hiring these people, just as they do every year. Pressure is put on them by the city to have a successful school. Who is going to hire someone that has been unable to find a job for twelve months in a city that can't even staff it's schools every year?

There is also some pressure on principals, however morally grounded, to look at cheaper employees. This means hiring younger, less-experienced teachers because their salaries are much lower. This is a problem with the budgets that I feel needs to be rectified. Here's a solution I've bounced around for a while:

Deduct the same amount of money from a principal's budget for every teacher hired. This would eliminate the concern about having to hire younger teachers or forcing older ones out and enable principals to simply hire the best teachers available. Who would pick up the rest of the tab for the salaries of these teachers? Tricky. Principals' budgets would need to be reduced as a whole, presuming they would need less money if they were only paying first-year rates to all teachers. That reduction of course would be highly contended and scrutinized, but if done correctly, most of the schools in the city might benefit.

A problem with this plan: Principals already receive pretty much the same budgets across the city. Some have made it a practice to have a young, slightly less-experienced staff in order to have a few more dollars to buy things like textbooks and computers. The bottom line is that there is simply not enough money to go around. Schools can either have great programs and technology or experienced teachers, but not both with the funding they're given by the state and federal government. The principals who have elected to have younger staffs to afford better programming would take a hit because they would probably lose enough of their budget that they wouldn't be able to afford the special program(s) they offer.

Perhaps this can be offset with grants to inflate budgets, but grants cannot be relied on year after year. If we move that direction in education I fear schools will open and close so often that the idea of "school culture" will be obliterated in the city, eliminating a major incentive for students to come to school.

Easy solution? There is none. Easy to rant about? Sure.

Point 2
Coming out of the school of ed we were all super stressed about getting jobs, understandably. This year it seems like it would be far worse. Because of the hiring freeze, all the people coming out of schools of education are not even eligible to be hired. These students of education did not have a teaching certificate last year and are therefore ineligible. If I had moved this year instead of last year I would have been sent right back to Kansas.

A loophole to this is if you are going through a non-traditional program. Teach for America candidates and New York Teaching Fellow candidates are still being allowed into the classroom without any experience. Regardless of how you feel about the traditional route to the classroom or the alternative routes, I personally think it's a bunch of crap. If traditional education students are worth that little, perhaps we should revamp those programs to make the future educators more valuable.

The hiring freeze, at any rate, as the potential to discourage a lot of eager, great candidates from even joining the field. What kind of message is the Department of Ed and the United Federation of Teachers sending if solid candidates are being rejected while the bottom of the barrel is being placed in schools?

Today's Wine: A Cabernet-Malbec blend at Libertador Parrilla Argentina. Apparently Malbec is oftentimes used as a blending grape, more especially in France, though. This one was from south of the border.

1 comment:

  1. I feel like the reason that the TFA and fellows had to be placed was because it is the city's fault that they wasted their time in those programs this year. It is utterly unfair to promise highly-skilled grads a job and then back out once an entire summer is wasted with "Institute" and not job-searching.

    I don't think it's a commentary on the level of qualified candidates coming out of the schools of ed, just a commentary on how NYC overestimated their need for teachers and is trying to back-pedal to keep their promises. While there is a nation-wide recession, there are not hiring freezes everywhere in the country. Anyone coming out of undergrad can presumably go anywhere in the country... and as you've posted before, there are other counties where the populations are equally underserved and if that is the reason that these teachers want to teach in NYC, then they can go to Chicago, or Topeka, or Baltimore. And if that is not the reason that they wanted to teach NYC, then they can go to Westchester.