One of the biggest wins for the union in negotiating the new teachers’ contract was getting CPS to agree that half of its new hires would be qualified, displaced teachers.
Still, it’s questionable how much the new provision will change what is happening on the ground in schools, given a host of factors.
For one, the provision had a stipulation that if CPS could not meet that quota by hiring back teachers, they could do so by taking the most-senior in the pool and making them substitutes.
Also, while the percentage of new hires who are displaced teachers has dropped in recent years, the overall number of displaced teachers has declined also. In fact, last year CPS could not have filled 50 percent of available jobs with displaced teachers because there were just not enough of them.
Here’s how the numbers compare: In the 2011-2012 school year, only 29 percent of new hires were of displaced teachers, according to a Catalyst Chicago analysis of data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. But three years ago, 48 percent of new hires were displaced teachers. During that time, the number of teachers in the displaced pool declined to 404 from 721.
Another factor is school closings, which simultaneously increase the number of displaced teachers and limit the number of jobs available. As many as 120 schools could be shut down in coming years, and more than 2,000 teachers could be displaced. But fewer schools means fewer teaching jobs, and the district’s budget problems are also likely to limit new hiring. New schools that are opened will, overwhelmingly, be charters, whose teachers by law cannot belong to the Chicago Teachers Union.
Another factor is retirements. A big wave of retirements took place this year, the last year in which teachers could take advantage of a pension enhancement program that allowed them to cash in unused sick and vacation days and have it count toward their pension. Fewer retirements in coming years will mean fewer new replacement hires.
CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey acknowledges that many unknowns existed when the union signed on to the provision. However, he said the union believes the provision will result in more displaced teachers being hired.
CPS also agreed to force principals to interview at least three displaced teachers when three or more apply for a position. If they choose not to hire one of the three, they must provide a reason to the Office of Talent Development.
“In the past, there was a real propensity for principals to hire new people,” Sharkey said. “Now principals will have a reason to hire more veterans, or the district will face a financial penalty.”
Another complicating factor is that the provision only applies to “pre-qualified” displaced teachers—those who have been rated satisfactory or excellent. In the past, there were no performance provisions to be part of the reassigned pool.
It is predicted that under the new evaluation system, about 70 percent of teachers would achieve those ratings.