Sunday, August 30, 2009

NY Times vividly admits that min wage causes unemployment, and gov is to blame

This article explains how NY schools are required to hire from a pool of senior teachers who must be paid more than entry level teachers. In effect, schools are required to pay more than the market clearing wage. The result: teachers are unemployed and classes go without teachers.

1 comment:

JG said...

No, the issue is not the price of teachers in wages to principals, creating a market clearing problem.

The problem is the incentives (and mandates) under the union contract for paying teachers not to teach.

The Times' story of course doesn't mention this, because it never says "peep" about even the most notorious teachers union rules. The gist is this...

Originally teachers by seniorty picked the jobs they wanted anywhere in the system. This was very bad because (1) a senior, bad teacher could come into a school and bounce out a junior good teacher whom the principal and parents wanted to keep; and (2) senior teachers flocked to comfortable rich-neighborhood schools, leaving only low-paid junior teachers for troubled poor-neighborhood schools.

Bloomberg purchased from the union a reform that lets principals select their own teachers. Good so far. But this means teachers who lose jobs from closed schools, etc., to get another job now must convince principals to hire them on the merits. Most are quickly successful since competent experienced teachers are in high demand.

But a teacher who can't get a job still gets paid in full for not working. The system can't dismiss the teacher. The union won't allow it.

And this creates a situation where teachers who don't really mind getting full pay for not working don't have to try very hard to look for a new job -- or even at all.

Of the teachers who have been in the "reserve pool" for nine months or more, getting full pay for not working, half have not even applied for job. The rest have such work poor records or make such poor presentations (not having any financial incentive to make a good one) that no principal will hire them.

That is, the reason these teachers aren't hired is not cost, it is competence.

Until this year, the school system "ate" the cost of their salaries and benefits -- well over $100 million annually -- to keep them out of classrooms and fill all openings with better, younger teachers.

But this year due to the fiscal crunch there is a hiring freeze. The system has told the principals "hire reserve teachers or nobody".

Once a bad teacher is brought into a school it's near impossible for the principal to get the teacher to leave -- so rather than get saddled with bad teachers for years to come, the principals are saying "we prefer nobody" even when leaving teaching slots empty. They prefer to wait it out until they can bring in a good teacher.

Thus, with about 1,200 full-time teaching slots empty, there are 2,200 teachers getting full pay and benefits for doing nothing in the system's disciplinary "rubber rooms" or in the "reserve", costing about $300 million a year.

In short, the real problem is that once a teacher is hired, it is effectively impossible to dismiss the teacher for any reason -- not even for incompetence, unemployability, refusing to apply for any job, or much worse.

More details, with links to sources.