With budget cuts looming, New York City Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein last week banned hiring educators from outside the school system, forcing principals to draw from the teacher-reserve pool and raising concerns about the effectiveness of ongoing staffing practices.
The reserve pool has 1,100 teachers who have remained on payrolls as substitutes and temporary replacements after their positions were eliminated because of downsizing or school closings. An independent report by the New Teacher Project estimates that the city paid $81 million in salary and benefits to teachers in the pool from 2005 to 2007.
The report also found that teachers in the pool are six times more likely than other teachers to have unsatisfactory evaluation ratings.
Timothy Daly, the president of the New Teacher Project, a New York City-based nonprofit that helps urban districts train and hire effective teachers, said the concentration of unsatisfactory-rated teachers in the pool increases over time as the highest-rated teachers find placements more quickly.
The policy change appears to be contrary to Chancellor Klein’s previous improvement efforts, which have focused on encouraging principals to recruit and hire teachers who best fit their schools’ needs.
Ann Forte, a district spokeswoman, said principals will also have access to 1,500 teachers who want to change schools through the open-market transfer system.
“By limiting principals’ choice to current staff, we are actually preserving choice in a way,” she said. “We’re avoiding [seniority-based] layoffs and forced bumping.”
Mr. Klein plans to loosen the restrictions for hard-to-staff subjects, and he will lift the ban on other high-needs placements as needed.
The use of programs such as Teach For America and the New York City Teaching Fellows, which train and place high-achieving college graduates for high-needs schools, will be scaled back significantly. District officials anticipate hiring 700 Teaching Fellows—half as many as last year.
United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said in a statement that the hiring policy “will avoid a waste of talent and money” by utilizing “veteran educators who lost their jobs through no fault of their own.”
Mr. Daly of the New Teacher Project views the ban as a more sensible option than layoffs or forced placements, but remains wary of its effect on school quality. “In the situation they’re in, they have to make budget cuts,” he said. “Is this a good blanket policy? It would be better for kids and schools to be able to hire the best teachers every time.”
A version of this article appeared in the May 20, 2009 edition of Education Week