A gutsy Democratic councilwoman exposed outrageous union work rules in New York City schools during four days of hearings in November. Some of the abuses uncovered by Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz include the following:
- Teachers cannot be assigned to patrol hallways, cafeterias or school yards. Unionized school aides must be hired to perform those duties, a rule that costs the city well over $100 million per year, according to the Department of Education.
- Before he may get rid of an incompetent tenured teacher, a principal must issue failing job ratings for at least two years.
- A seniority-based, lock-step compensation structure bans merit pay and also mandates that gym teachers earn the same money as math and science teachers, who are in short supply.
- The chancellor has the authority to shut down a failing school and open a new school in the same building, but half of the most senior teachers from the failing school have a right to a job in the new school - even if they are considered part of the original problem.
- The chancellor last year sought to offer $25,000 annual bonuses as an incentive for star principals to transfer to low-performing schools, but he couldn't do so without approval of the union. The union refused.
- A custodians union contract covers mopping and sweeping but not vacuuming, so a principal was unable to require the janitor to vacuum rugs.
Moskowitz called some of the work rules "scandalous" and "indefensible." Union officials launched an unsuccessful media campaign to intimidate Moskowitz into canceling her hearings. Schools Chancellor Joel Klein said that he should be "held accountable" if some of the more egregious contract provisions aren't eliminated during the next round of union negotiations. (Wall Street Journal, 11-24-03)