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Last-minute deal stops teacher layoffs

Pat Arnow

No layoffs! The victory, after weeks of cliffhanger budget negotiations and literally hundreds of protest actions by concerned parents and educators, was sweet indeed for teachers who can now close up their classrooms with the knowledge that they’ll see their students again in September.

The city budget agreement, negotiated with instrumental help from the City Council and Speaker Christine Quinn, saves 4,200 teaching jobs and keeps open 20 fire companies. It may also restore some cuts to child care funding and libraries.

In exchange for no layoffs in the next school year, the UFT agreed to temporarily suspend study sabbaticals in the 2012-13 school year. Members who planned study sabbaticals for this coming year will not be affected.

The union also worked out changes and clarifications in how teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve will be deployed. The 1,200 teachers in the ATR pool will now have a real opportunity to fill full vacancies and long-term leaves in their school districts and will have a clear pathway to a permanent placement.

“Through marches, rallies and other actions, big and small, you and your colleagues made the case that layoffs were wrong, unnecessary and a disaster for our schools,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew told teachers in a Friday night email message to members. “We prevailed in this fight because we got the public and the City Council on our side. Thank you for everything you have done.”

budget-pic-mmBriget Anne ReinCouncil Speaker Christine Quinn was instrumental in negotiating the city budget agreement. The deal came together thanks to financial contributions from the UFT, the City Council and the Department of Education. The mayor found an extra $170 million in tax revenues to help offset costs. He also conceded that teacher attrition is expected to be more than the 1,500 he initially estimated, likely about 2,600. The Council put in about $52 million from its own funds. The union negotiated the sabbatical and ATR modifications as savings measures.

Starting in the fall, every long-term absence or leave must be filled by an ATR. Two ATRs must be sent to any school that has at least one vacancy. The principal can accept one of them or not. For vacancies remaining after Sept. 15, up to three ATRs will be sent to schools with an appropriate vacant position. The selected ATR will work on a provisional basis. After one year, both the teacher and the principal will determine whether the assignment should become permanent. Remaining ATRs will be employed as day-to-day substitutes for a minimum of one week in schools in their home districts.

Last-minute deal stops teacher layoffs - 2Delegates cheer as UFT President Michael Mulgrew explains the no-layoff agreement at a special Delegate Assembly on June 28.

The UFT will sit on an oversight committee to ensure that the ATR agreement is correctly implemented.

While the budget agreement staves off teacher layoffs, the mayor is going forward with layoffs for some other city workers. About 1,000 people in health, housing, transportation, parks and some child services could lose their jobs. They are mainly workers represented by AFSCME District Council 37 and could include some school-based personnel such as cafeteria workers.

See the full agreement to avert 4,200 teacher layoffs, June 2011.

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