Schools Scrambling for Cheap Labor

Chancellor Klein making room for cheap assistants and grizzled veterans

Schools Chancellor Joel Klein appears to have found a loophole that will allow him to backpedal on his ban of parent-paid teachers assistants, while at the same time he is urging the city's principals to hire veteran educators.

Howls echoed across New York last week when it was announced that the city would no longer allow in classrooms teachers assistants paid for by parents. The move was in response to the teachers' union, who complained that these aides were taking jobs that should be going to their fellow union members.

With a tweak of the rules, Klein will now have the assistants called "substitute aides," a preexisting title that pays $12.30 hour and offers no benefits.

“We just want assistant teachers in the fall, and our teachers want them too,” Lauren Rosenthal, whose sons have teaching assistants at P.S. 9 on the Upper West Side, told The New York Times. “We need a solution now because people have to be hired for Sept. 9.”

Meanwhile, Klein has been begging principals to begin filling some 2,400 vacant teaching positions with people from the "absent teacher reserve pool." This is a group of teachers who lost their posts for a variety of reasons -- budget cuts, falling enrollment ... but still pull a full salary, costing the city roughly $40 million annually.

Principals typically opt to hire fresh blood, whose lower salaries cost less against their individual budgets.

“I am aware that these restrictions limit your choices, but this policy is the only way to preserve your ability to select your own staff, a hard-fought change in school hiring,” Mr. Klein wrote to principals, reported The Times. “Given these circumstances, you should not hold back on creating and filling vacancies.”

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