Will Newark Use Zuckerberg Money to Buy Out Bad Teachers?
The Newark school system may use part of a massive donation to make its worst teachers go away. Aren't there better uses for that kind of money?
In September 2010, Facebook's billionaire founder, Mark Zuckerberg, put up $100 million to help improve Newark schools. Now, it seems, they're mulling one use for the money: buying out 300-400 of the system's weakest teachers. The Wall Street Journal quotes Cory Booker on the reasoning:
"Superintendent Anderson has two hands tied behind her back," he said at a meeting of education writers in Philadelphia on Friday. "If we could fire the 300 to 400 lowest-performing teachers, she wouldn't have a financial crisis."
In an interview, Mr. Booker said he hoped the buyouts would be a temporary fix until schools can oust teachers based on performance rather than seniority. Mr. Booker, unlike New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, doesn't have control of the schools and isn't part of negotiations over a new contract.
According to the article, Newark has a group of teachers without permanent positions who cannot be fired, and therefore get used as substitutes or teacher's aides, at a cost of almost 1% of the system's annual budget. Presumably, there are also teachers in the classrooms that the district would rather do without.
It seems like there ought to be some better use of that money than paying underperforming teachers to go away. Of course, that may be a moot concern, since it's not clear that the union will sign off on the deal:
Union President Joseph Del Grosso said he is open to buyouts if the offer is sweet enough. But he said if the highest-paid teachers leave the system, the union as a whole could suffer from the loss of their dues.
"I'm not financially stupid," he said. "I have to understand that that would cause a hardship to the union if that was done at a mass scale."