(Park Slope, NY) Public school parents from low-income communities across Brooklyn joined with StudentsFirstNY to rally outside the Prospect Park YMCA, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s favorite weekday hangout spot. The reason? They want Mayor de Blasio to reconsider his new plan to force place teachers from the Absent Teacher Reserve back into the classroom. But instead of engaging with these concerned parents (and voters), Mayor de Blasio turned his back on them and drove away.
Earlier this month, Mayor de Blasio announced a change of policy that would result in the forced placement of 400 teachers from the ATR pool into schools across the city. For more than three years, the de Blasio Administration has promised that forced placement of teachers was not an option and that principals would be able to decide which teachers were hired into their schools. Now, without warning in the middle of summer, Mayor de Blasio has changed the policy. These parents from Fort Greene, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights and other Brooklyn communities are urging him to reconsider.
“Mayor de Blasio should skip the gym today and get back to work. If he wants a workout, he can burn some calories coming up with a better plan than forcing ATR teachers back into the classroom," said StudentsFirstNY Organizing Manager Darlene Boston.
“We all know that Mayor de Blasio won’t be forcing ineffective teachers back into classrooms here in Park Slope. Nope, these unwanted teachers will end up in the public schools in my neighborhood,” said Crown Heights Public School Parent Monell Birkett. “Mr. Mayor, don’t do to my kids what you would never do to yours.”
“Principals have refused to hire teachers from the ATR for a reason, but now the Mayor is forcing these unwanted teachers back into the classroom. Mayor de Blasio is putting students last,” said Bedford-Stuyvesant Public School Parent Nicole Thomas.
StudentsFirstNY has also launched an online petition, urging all New Yorkers to demand Mayor de Blasio end this misguided policy on forcing ATR teachers back into the classroom.
Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR): The ATR pool is the city’s designation for teachers who have been unable or unwilling to secure full-time teaching positions after being displaced from other schools – often despite the availability of many job openings. These teachers continue to receive full salary and benefits. Today, there are more than 800 of them, costing New Yorkers over $150 million a year. A third of the teachers in the ATR pool have been rated unsatisfactory and a quarter face disciplinary charges. The ATR exists because the UFT has fought to protect weak teachers from quality-based layoffs.
Turning Back the Clock to Forced Placement: Before the ATR pool was created, underperforming teachers were simply passed from one school to another. In those days, any teacher whose jobs was eliminated could be forced into another school, regardless of whether they wanted to work there or whether the principal wanted to hire them. It created a dysfunctional culture where principals often hid open positions to get rid of low-performing teachers—who bounced around the system for their entire careers. With his flip-flop on forced placement, Mayor de Blasio is turning back the clock to the days when schools were forced to accept teachers that no other principals wanted. This policy puts students last.
StudentsFirstNY is a grassroots education advocacy organization dedicated to improving public school options throughout New York State.