Daily News Editorial
April 14, 2010
Two city legislators have emerged as profiles in courage in Albany. Manhattan Assemblyman Jonathan Bing and Bronx Sen. Ruben Diaz have introduced revolutionary bills that would elevate the interests of New York school children over the hidebound, destructive contract rights of teachers.
The state's historic budget crisis is driving the Department of Education toward laying off more than 5,000 teachers. If that were to happen under the current rules, disaster would follow.
That's because the teachers' contract stipulates that layoffs must be done based strictly on seniority. A veteran teacher cut from one school can claim the job of a junior person in another school - regardless of who is the more effective instructor.
Teachers would be bumped from one school to the next to the next until the last ones hired were dumped. This is a recipe for disruptions that would strike at the heart of every principal's attempt to tailor the best staff for his or her school.
Bing, who represents the upper East Side, and Diaz, who represents the South Bronx, foresee nightmares because the schools in their districts, one at the top of the income ladder, the other at the bottom, hired large numbers of teachers in recent years. Roughly 20% of their instructors could be pushed out of jobs and replaced.
The two lawmakers have a far better idea that would benefit schools citywide. Their bill would end seniority as the sole factor in layoffs. Instead, principals would decide in consultation with panels of teachers, administrators and parents.
Factors would include effectiveness in the classroom, subject area and contributions to the school, as well as length of service. Who better than parents and fellow teachers knows which teachers raise achievement the most and which the least?