July 6, 2008

ATR links — Part I: What the union has had to say

REVISED!! I've added the notes I took at the ATR meeting on June 2, 2008, at UFT headquarters.

ALSO: See the DoE memorandum on how ATRs will be paid in 2008/9.

PART II: Teacher reactions (July 13)

For anyone recently excessed, getting a handle on the way this situation is being played out in the political arena might make it a easier for you to assess your options.

This is a compilation of some of the many posts, comments, letters, and statements relating to the ATR debacle that have been published on the web in the past year. It's meant to be comprehensive, but not complete.

The links in this first part point to the UFT’s website (www.uft.org), which has ATR info in Know Your Rights posts, Q & A's, bits from the NY Teacher, letters, and messages from Weingarten and other execs. The paragraphs below each link are extracted from the full articles.

Part II (in a couple of days) will link to some of the many essays on other sites that explain, predict, criticize, debunk, and rage against all things related to ATRs over the past year.

Part I:
From the union's point of view

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS: Excessing (Feb 6, 2007)
[A working definition of what it means to be excessed, and what happens if you do not get placed.]

Union: 'Older' ATRs face hiring discrimination, by Deidre McFadyen (in NY Teacher, Dec. 6, 2007)
The UFT is exploring a lawsuit charging that the DOE’s new school budgeting formula has hurt older teachers seeking positions through the “open market” transfer plan, UFT President Randi Weingarten said.

. . . Several veterans recounted long and fruitless searches for a permanent post.

. . . “One of the first questions the principals asked me was, ‘How many years have you been working for the Department of Education?’” said one ATR. “Some even admitted to me, ‘I can’t afford you.’”

. . . Thanks to a job-security guarantee that the UFT secured in the 2005 contract, ATRs maintain their salary and benefits and cannot be fired or laid off. “We are never going to give up job security,” said UFT Executive Assistant to the President Michael Mendel. “It’s a basic tenet of this union.”

. . . In an impact bargaining session in September, the UFT asked the DOE for a moratorium on new hires until a permanent position in the appropriate license area had been secured for every ATR who wants one.

Most ATRs are on the central payroll so principals who have ATRs covering short- or long-term absences in schools have little incentive to hire them.

The DOE did agree to modify the new school financing system to encourage principals to hire ATRs. A principal who hires an ATR is now billed the salary of a new hire for the first year and a new hire’s salary plus half the difference between the starting salary and the teacher’s actual salary in the second year. Only in the third year would the school assume the total cost of the teacher’s salary.

But the UFT is pressing for further changes.

One of the UFT’s proposals is that principals be required to hire ATRs who are filling vacancies in their license area in the school.

The union also proposed that ATRs be allowed access to all DOE job fairs and be given the same opportunities for employment as any potential new hire. Last year, members complained that the DOE barred them from certain job fairs or segregated excessed members from new applicants.

The UFT also wants the principal to have to state in writing why an ATR was not granted a job.

Voluntary School-wide Bonus Program Q & A (Dec. 6, 2007)
. . . 9. Are RTR, ATR and or staff on OSI charges eligible for the bonus? If a staff member works full time and is on the school’s Table of Organization, they will be taken into account for the amount of the award that a school receives. The school compensation committee will decide how the money is distributed to members in these categories as well as the rest of the staff.

Absent Teacher Reserves resolution (11-07) (Jan. 22, 2008)
[A resolution with 5 WHEREAS clauses ending:]

RESOLVED, that the union petition the Dept. of Education to declare a moratorium on hiring new employees until all excessed employees in those of title are placed.

Passed at the Nov.7, 2007, UFT Delegate Assembly.

NEW TEACHER Q & A: Q: What is excessing? Will my probation or tenure [sic] (in NY Teacher, April 10, 2008)
[more of the same kind of description given in the Feb. 6, 2007, Know Your Rights above]

UFT sues Tweed for age discrimination, by Dorothy Callaci (in NY Teacher, April 10, 2008)
. . Under pressure from a coalition of the union, parents and community groups last spring, the DOE agreed to a “hold- harmless” agreement that when an older teacher resigned or retired, the school would retain the equivalent of that teacher’s salary in its budget, giving the principal the ability to hire another senior teacher at equal cost. The UFT retained its right to grieve the DOE’s unilateral change in the negotiated open-market transfer plan if the transfer data showed evidence of bias against senior teachers.

The “hold-harmless” agreement did alleviate some of the impact of the new funding system on senior teachers. Klein, however, has recently indicated a readiness to abandon that agreement in light of the budget problems.

The lawsuit charges that the new funding system, even with the ameliorating effects of the “hold-harmless” agreement, violated New York City Human Rights Law by putting older teachers at a disadvantage.

. . . After a year of monitoring, including a request under the Taylor Law for the DOE’s data, it has become obvious that even with the 2007 “hold-harmless” agreement, there is a disproportionate number of older teachers in the ATR pool. The average age of ATRs has increased because younger teachers who get excessed seem to have an easier time finding new positions through the open-market transfer plan than older teachers.

Letter to the Editor of the NY Teacher: Lessons of an ATR (April 24, 2008)
[having to defend yourself concerning the reason you’ve been excessed]

UFT faults Klein for creating job barriers for ATRs, by Randi Weingarten (April 29, 2008)
UFT President Randi Weingarten denounced a report issued on April 28 by the New Teacher Project, a DOE contractor, which blames educators filling day-to-day vacancies for being unable to find new permanent teaching positions and recommends firing them after one year.

. . The DOE is abrogating its responsibility to help these dedicated teachers find permanent jobs when they have lost positions through no fault of their own.

Letter to the Editor of the New York Sun, by Randi Weingarten (May 2, 2008)
. . . It is disingenuous for Chancellor Joel Klein to now act surprised by this development and blame the victims. He should stop shifting responsibility for what is a management function to the backs of educators who need his support, not his scapegoating.

Open letter from the UFT president to ATRs, by Randi Weingarten (May 2, 2008)
Dear Colleague,
I wanted to personally reassure you that the UFT will not reopen the contract to negotiate any change in the terms and conditions of your employment. We have a rock-solid job security clause in our contract that does not allow the Department of Education to lay off any of our members, particularly ATRs.

. . . I told the DOE as clearly and unequivocally as possible that I would never agree to give it the right to fire or put on unpaid leave experienced teachers who, through no fault of their own, were excessed from their teaching jobs and have been unable to find new positions.

. . . And this battle is pitched because we won job security for all our members in 2005, so please be assured that it is a rock-solid guarantee and we will still work, despite the heated rhetoric, to get those of you who want a real opportunity to teach that opportunity.

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS: Excessing (May 8, 2008)
[updates the Feb. 6, 2007 Know your rights paragraphs on excessing; see above]

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS: If at first you don't succeed..., by Randi Weingarten (NY Teacher, May 8, 2008)
[a recherche which explains the history of the ATR situation, including a discussion of the April 28 attacks made by The New Teacher Project; see above]

School compensation committee instructions, by Dan Weisberg and Michael Mendel (May 22, 2008)
. . . Bonus Recipients: The Compensation Committee may provide a share of the bonus to any UFT-represented staff members it chooses. The total bonus pool available to distribute will be based on the October 31, 2007 Table of Organization. All UFT-represented members in the school should share in the bonus. How much each member receives is left up entirely to the Compensation Committee, who will make their decision by consensus. If there is no consensus the pool of money will not be distributed to the school.

. . . ATR’s, On-leave Employees, etc.: As long as ATR’s or staff on-leave were on your school’s Table of Organization as of last October 31st, they will be included for calculation purposes to determine the total bonus pool available to disburse.

Excessing Rules = No-Layoff Provision (June 5, 2006)
At the May Delegate Assembly Randi mentioned that one of the things we gained in our new contract is that the excessing clause is a virtual no-layoff provision. Up until now we have downplayed this gain, waiting for the contractual language to be fully hammered out.

. . . Now, a person can remain as an ATR indefinitely while still seeking another position, and because these positions are not limited no one can be laid-off unless there is a true citywide layoff situation or major budgetary problems that require the DOE to cut back severely on staff. In such emergencies, the DOE must follow Ed. Law section 2588, which states that part-timers and regular subs must be let go first and if all vacancies have been filled then layoffs must follow a strict seniority pattern starting with the most junior person in the city.

* The DOE will no longer let principals take an excessed person off the school’s budget until that person has a job. This stops the wholesale excessing of personnel. But while this is a positive for many of members it may serve to retard some of the job acceptances in the open market system.

This new provision not only gives our members a no-layoff provision under ordinary circumstances but keeps them from being bumped or excessed all over the city.

If you want to stay in your district or superintendency, YOU CAN!

NEW TEACHER Q & A: Q: What does it mean if I am excessed? (June 5, 2008)
[a short message, includes a bit of stuff from Feb. 6, 2007, and April 10, 2008, posts, but mentions finding a job in the Open Market]

UFT’s detailed analysis finds bias and distortions in ATR findings by DOE-connected firm (June 9, 2008)
A new analysis by the UFT thoroughly debunks a recent much publicized report, by an organization that has contracts with the Department of Education, that complained about the financial burden posed by excessed teachers serving in the Absent Teacher Reserve and characterized many ATRs as unable or unwilling to find permanent jobs.

[a link to the full text of the analysis is provided]

Resolution on ATRs and Keeping our Contract Closed (5-08) (June 16, 2008)
[Further to the resolution of Nov. 7, 2007, this one has 14 WHEREAS clauses and ends:]

RESOLVED, that the UFT reject the reopening of our contract; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the union continue to press the DOE to stop wasting money and talent and instead assume its responsibility for finding a full-time position for every ATR.

Passed at the May 14, 2008 UFT Delegate Assembly.


Mike Mendel told us these things at the ATR meeting on June 2, 2008:

1. Unless you hear from your school now or over the summer, you go back to the same school.

2. Same as before: if you don't want to look for a new job, fine, just stay put. But, if they send you to another school and principal wants you, you must take it.

3. The UFT has filed a grievance with the DoE that they have not been sending ATRs on interviews, which is what the contract says they should be doing. The point he was trying to make is : If you are excessed and they fail to send you on an interview, then how can you be an ATR? The grievance is to force them to send people on interviews.

4. All job fairs in whatever borough are open to all ATRs citywide.

5. You can be observed as ATRs (I did not get a chance to ask him if what they told us before still holds: that they can't observe you if you are teaching out of subject on the subject itself, but certainly on class management).

6. International teachers who become ATRs will be cut free from the system altogether.

7. They don't know if there's enough money for any buyouts at this time.

8. Probationary teachers have no protections.


  1. woodlass:

    Great information on ATRs. However, the comment that the ATRs stay on the school's payroll when excessed is incorrect. Excessed ATRs are off the school payroll after 60 days, even if they stay in their school!

  2. Chaz, I never heard that, so I'm trying to find out and will post the answer here. I heard that people in the rubber rooms are off the budget after 60 days, but for the ATRs, if your POSITION was closed, you stay on the school budget. If your SCHOOL was closed or reorganized, then you stay on central budget until someone hires you. I'll get back to you when I hear something.

  3. I said I would get back to you on who pays for ATRs. The memorandum that shows the way ATRs will be paid can found on the DoE website: SCHOOL ALLOCATION MEMORANDUM NO. 33, FY09

    Essentially, it says:

    — Principals are reminded that excessing is not a permissible way to deal with unsatisfactory teachers.

    — Schools are expected to self-fund excess staff.

    — Schools can only receive money from central if BOTH of these criteria are met:

    1. REASON FOR THE EXCESSING MUST BE ONE OF THESE: grade loss, grant funding is ending or being reduced unexpectedly, mandated IEP position no longer needed (ed para); register loss of at least 5%, lead teacher position no longer needed.

    2. FINANCIAL GUIDELINES — schools must demonstrate an inability to self-fund (lists a lot of criteria).

    Furthermore: centrally funded ATRs last year must be re-evaluated for who's funding them this year, and central funds for excessing is a LOAN to schools, and subject to repayment. There are other things listed as well.