The judge in the California Vergara tenure decision wrote,
Challenged Statutes result in grossly ineffective teachers obtaining and retaining permanent employment, and, that these teachers are disproportionately situated in schools serving predominantly low income and minority students … plaintiffs equal protection claims assert that the Challenged Statutes violate their fundamental rights to equality of education by adversely affecting the quality of the education they are afforded by the state.
What if plaintiffs in New York State argue that high achieving, high wealth schools receive higher per capita funding than low achieving, high poverty schools violating the plaintiffs’ equal protection rights? and, in New York City, discourage schools from hiring experienced teachers?
What if the plaintiffs in New York City argue that high achieving selective schools have more experienced, higher achieving teachers and better educated teachers than high poverty, low achieving schools violating the plaintiffs’ equal protection rights?
The policies in New York City relating to student funding and teacher transfer both result in less experienced and in some cases less effective teachers working in schools serving poorer students.
In pre-Bloomberg days late in the school year Budget Memorandum # 1 would arrive – the hundred plus page document explaining the budget dollars for the upcoming school year was highly anticipated by each school district. The district divided up the dollars in the form of positions to each school.
In the nineties a new idea began to gain acceptance, staffing decisions should be made at the school site, not at a distant district office. Decisions over dollars should be driven by student needs, called weighted student funding.
An innovative process called weighted student formula is a fair and equitable way to distribute funds for school budgets. The amount of money given to a school will be based on individual student need, not enrollment. This means that students with more needs will receive more resources. For the first time, funding will follow students to whichever schools they attend, equalizing opportunities at the student level.
How weighted student formula works:
• A specific dollar amount will be allocated to educate each student enrolled.
• Additional money will be given to educate students with identified characteristics that impact their learning and achievement.
Eric Hanischek, an economist, questions whether the presumption that better decisions are made at the school site has a research support.
The highest-poverty schools in urban areas traditionally have received less funding than more-advantaged schools, not because of programmatic disparities, but largely because they employ more rookie teachers who come with lower salaries than more-senior educators…
A lovely school in Brownstone Brooklyn or Eastern Queens may have many senior teachers while a school in Brownsville many newer teachers, under the old system if you multiplied the school average teacher salary by the number of teachers and divided by the number of students the schools in Brownstone Brooklyn and Eastern Queens would receive substantially higher per capita funding than the school in Brownsville. Under a weighted student funding approach the funds would follow the student and the school budget would be the sum total of the students weights
The underlying motivation for weighted student funding is built on a presumption that districts are making patently bad decisions, either because of a lack of capacity or distorted incentives. Is it the case that these problems appear just at the district level, but not the school level? Why do we believe that school-level personnel—without any prior training and experience—will become better stewards of resources or better judges of personnel, curricula, or instructional techniques?
The reform envisioned is not so much about providing differential dollars based on student needs, but about changing who makes funding decisions.
The Bloomberg/Klein administration jumped on board using the term Fair Student Funding. See the latest Fair Funding Resource Guide, especially pp 49ff which explains the funding of teachers at schools: See Guide http://schools.nyc.gov/offices/d_chanc_oper/budget/dbor/allocationmemo/fy14_15/FY15_PDF/FSF_Guide.pdf
There is a significant flaw in the system, new hires are charged at their actual salary; principals are forced to factor in the cost of the teacher, i. e., should I hire the experienced $80,000 teacher or the newer $60,000 teacher? Since high poverty schools have much higher staff attrition the Fair Student Funding rules push principals to hire the least experienced, namely, “cheaper” teachers.
The Vergara law suit alleges that high poverty schools have the least experienced and least effective teachers and the current Fair Student Funding rules reinforce these claims.
There is a simple “fix,” a way to extinguish the Vergara claim, new hires should be “charged” to the school at the average district salary, not actual salary, experienced and newer teachers would be treated equally.
One of the keys to improving outcomes in high poverty schools is recruiting and retaining the best possible teachers and the current Fair Student Funding rules add an unnecessary word, “recruiting and retaining the best and cheapest teachers.” The current rules are antithetical to the outcomes we seek.
The Bloomberg/Klein administration vigorously attacked the seniority transfer system; each spring the Board posted half of all vacancies and teachers with at least five years of service could file for seniority transfer, and, no more than 5% of could transfer out of a school. Subsequent transfers required five years of service since the last transfer.
Under the Open Market Transfer System any teacher, regardless of seniority can transfer to any school regardless of years of service.
The current rules facilitate teachers moving from school to school and the movement is from high poverty, low achieving to higher achieving schools; there is considerable research,
Urban schools, in particular, have lesser-qualified teachers; and New York City stands out among urban areas. Low-income, low-achieving and non-white students, particularly those in urban areas, find themselves in classes with many of the least skilled teachers.
and, another study finds,
… we find that teachers with better pre-service qualifications (certification exam scores, college competitiveness) are more likely to apply for transfer, while teachers whose students demonstrate higher achievement growth are less likely. On the other hand, schools prefer to hire “higher quality” teachers across measures that signal quality. The results suggest that not only do more effective teachers prefer to stay in their schools but that schools are able to identify and hire the best candidates when given the opportunity.
Current Department policy is accelerating the movement of more effective teachers out of high poverty schools to higher achieving schools thereby violating the equal protection rights of minority students by adversely affecting the quality of their education.
The Department could remedy the issue by reinstituting the “five year rule” or limiting the number of teacher allowed to transfer from, “focus” and “priority” schools.
“Rules” that disadvantage one class of students passed by a prior administration are not written in stone, and, in fact, if the “rules” violate the civil rights of a class of students, if the rules adversely impact the quality of education, the courts could embarrass the current administration.
Perhaps the Chancellor should consider the recommended changes.