City Losing Experienced Teachers at Record Rate

March 12, 2014 Updated: March 13, 2014

NEW YORK—Teachers have been quitting the New York City school system at a steady pace for over a decade, but an alarming trend began to develop over the past five years.

Experienced teachers are making up a larger and larger portion of teachers who quit the system.

The number of teachers with 6 to 15 years of experience leaving their jobs has nearly doubled since 2008, according to a report from the United Federation of Teachers (UFT). These midcareer teachers made up 43 percent of all the teachers leaving the system in 2013, an unprecedented rate, according to UFT President Michael Mulgrew.

Historically, newer teachers with less than six years of experience made up the bulk of those leaving the city’s school system. Midcareer teachers were less likely to leave; in 2008, they made up just 15 percent of those quitting the system.

Many of these experienced teachers are leaving for jobs in other New York counties, where pay is higher and class sizes are smaller. Losing more midcareer teachers is particularly troubling because it takes several years to acclimate to teaching in New York City, Mulgrew pointed out.

“When teachers stay, they continue to get better at their craft,” Mulgrew said at a press conference at UFT’s headquarters Tuesday.

Midcareer teachers in New Rochelle are making $9,000 more than those in New York City. Top salaries for teachers in Great Neck are $29,000 higher than those for teachers in New York City.

From 2002 to 2012, some 4,600 teachers left New York City schools for those elsewhere in the state.

“I am tired of New York City acting like the farm system for the areas around us,” Mulgrew said. “We train teachers. Then they go to the suburbs.”

Mulgrew held the press conference the day after the first round of health care negotiations between labor unions and the city began.

He said that teachers are leaving New York City schools due to low pay and poor working conditions. New York City has the lowest teacher pay and the largest class sizes in the region, according to the UFT report.

Teacher Labor Contract

The contract between the teachers and the city expired in 2009. The principals’ contract expired in 2010. The city and UFT have remained at an impasse since, with the union counting on the new administration to work out a contract.

If the new administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio settles for a contract with the teachers union, it would have to provide the teachers retroactive pay, as mandated by state law, according to a budget brief from the Citizens Budget Commission (CBC).

In one estimate by the CBC, it would cost the city $3.5 billion to award back pay and salary increases to teachers in 2014, if the city negotiates the same 4 percent wage increases the teachers received in 2007 and 2008.

No reserve exists in the city budget to cover for such a huge sum. In comparison, the cost of de Blasio’s entire pre-K and after-school program expansion over five years is $2.65 billion.

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