The cost of a buyout

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Rubber rooms may have disappeared from headlines, but teachers are still languishing. New York City has over 800 teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve that it can't seem to shed (there would have been over a thousand, but a new sub rotation policy was successful beyond expectations). The teachers comprising the Absent Teacher Reserve are tenured but unplaced. They entered the ATR after either being laid off or left without a position after school closures, and some came from the rubber rooms. With average annual salaries for those teachers of $82,420, the district ends up funneling over $68 million per year to teachers no longer working in schools. The district did recoup $5 million by drawing from the ranks of the unemployed for substitutes, but all in all, the costs are so great that offering buyouts to encourage teachers to resign is looking fiscally attractive.

New York City, and now Newark, are both considering paying non-practicing teachers still on the payroll to leave the system. Similar practices have been pursued by the likes of Washington D.C., Houston, and Dallas. At $20,000 a teacher, the buyout could cost New York City schools over $16 million.

The superintendent of Philadelphia's $905,000 buyout last year was so offensive it prompted Pennsylvania legislators to rethink top administrator contracts. Is $16 million enough to reignite movement on damaging school personnel policies?

- Laura Johnson