Open Market is Open Season on Veteran Teachers
By Bronx Chapter Leader*
Every April until August, NYCDOE teachers have the opportunity to “transfer” via the Open Market. While this system was lauded as being a beacon of equality and equity when it was first introduced, veteran teachers wouldn’t use such words to describe it. The senior candidate goes online, applies to a number of schools, and most times does not hear anything back. If they’re lucky enough to communicate directly with a principal or assistant principal, they get informed that the position has already been filled (yet it will remain vacant online even beyond the closing of the Open Market). If by chance an interview actually occurs, odds are the interview will be in vain. While it’s certainly a good thing to be able to leave a school without needing a principal’s consent, it’s the question of finding a school you can flee to when you’re a veteran teacher.
The Open Market is discriminatory against veteran teachers in part because of the Fair Student Funding Formula. The Fair Student Funding Formula works in a way that produces the same consequences as the NFL’s Rooney Rule. The Rooney Rule states that prior to hiring a coach teams must interview a specific number of minority candidates. Many of the minority candidates who are called in for interviews loath the process because they know they don’t have a shot at the job. In fact, the job was filled before it was even “offered” to them. Under the Fair Student Funding Formula, the veteran teacher must compete against younger, less experienced, lower salary teachers. After being forced into the Excessed and ATR pools by schools looking to tighten their budgets, these older, higher salary teachers come to find their maneuverability on the Open Market undermined by their price tag. They go through the motions of the hiring process knowing their cost is more important than their effect on student achievement.
Fixing the Open Market transfer systems requires a few changes. The most ambitious change would be doing away with Fair Student Funding. While that is a major hurdle to jump, a smaller change I suggest is eliminating phantom positions and penalizing principals who exploit them. Some of the same phantom vacancies are on the open market every year. A school will purposely not fill a position and spread the responsibility onto other teachers, thereby keeping a candidate out of a job. Any phantom position that is on the open market for two consecutive cycles should be required to be filled by a veteran teacher. In addition, I believe that further incentives should be given to schools who consistently hire veteran teachers from the Open Market. While the DOE and UFT continue to pour accolades on the Open Market Transfer System, veteran teachers not only see it for the farce it really is but also recognize the discrimination that lies underneath its facade.
*About the Author: Bronx Chapter Leader (pseudonym) is a proud UFT Chapter Leader and Solidarity member at a transfer high school in the South Bronx.
We would also like to thank Quinn Zannoni and John Lawhead for editing this article.