NEW YORK — The city should encourage hundreds of unneeded teachers to resign by giving them "generous" payouts, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said in a speech Thursday morning.
Eight hundred teachers are currently sitting in the Absent Teacher Reserve pool without jobs, costing the city $100 million a year, which Walcott said is an unacceptable waste of money.
"If you're a teacher who can't find a permanent job in our schools after a year, we will offer you a generous incentive to resign and pursue another career," Walcott said at an Association for a Better New York breakfast Thursday.
"It would reduce a significant burden on our budget, allowing us to divert millions of dollars back to schools," Walcott continued. "Every dollar we save, we can use to benefit our students, instead of wasting it on teachers who probably chose the wrong profession."
A quarter of the teachers in the reserve pool have been disciplined for breaking rules, and nearly half have not taken any steps to find a new job in the past year, Walcott said.
The Department of Education did not immediately respond to questions about how much the buyouts would cost and where the money would come from.
United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said the union has been willing to negotiate a "voluntary severance payment" for teachers who are in the pool of teachers waiting for a classroom, but he questioned Walcott's assertion that it would save the city money.
The DOE has been using the teacher reserve pool for substitutes in classrooms with sick or missing teachers, so the pool is not as big a waste as Walcott claimed, Mulgrew said.
"While no one wants to protect teachers who are not doing the job, the more important issue is the thousands of good teachers who leave the system every year because of substandard pay, bad teaching conditions and lack of support from their superiors," Mulgrew said in a statement. "That's the real problem our schools face, and I have yet to hear the chancellor or the mayor come up with a strategy to deal with it."
Also on Thursday, Walcott announced an aggressive plan to target failing teachers. Any teacher who receives an unsatisfactory rating two years in a row will automatically be removed from the classroom and the city will move to fire them, Walcott said.
"If you are one of the few hundred teachers who gets poorly rated two years in a row, you don't deserve to teach in our schools and in front of our students," Walcott said.
In his response to Walcott's speech, Mulgrew questioned the need for a new policy, since the city already has the right to dismiss teachers who don't have tenure "virtually at will."
"You would have to ask the chancellor why, if this is such a good idea, it has taken the administration 10 years to implement it?" Mulgrew said in a statement.
Walcott's speech also included digs at the teacher's union, which he said stood in the way of improving the city's schools.
"Rather than come together on behalf of our students," Walcott said, "the UFT takes every opportunity to stall, often suing us in court and complaining to a State panel when they don't get their way."