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TNTP Re-imagine Teaching

Unintended Consequences

The Case for Reforming the Staffing Rules in Urban Teachers Union Contracts

April 6, 2005

Two contractual staffing rules put the straightjacket on urban schools’ hiring abilities.

Two staffing rules mandated by urban teachers union contracts are having a profound influence on not only new teacher hiring but also the ability of urban schools to staff their classrooms effectively. “Voluntary transfer” and “excessed teacher” rules often require schools to hire incumbent teachers—either ones with seniority rights who want to move between schools or ones who have been cut from their positions due to declines in budget or student enrollment—without any regard for whether these teachers are the right matches for the jobs. 

Unintended Consequences examines five major urban school districts across the country to quantify the degree to which these collectively-bargained rules hamper the ability of schools to make smart hiring decisions. 

Key findings:

  • Urban schools are forced to hire large numbers of teachers they do not want.
  • Poor performers are shifted from school to school instead of being transitioned out.
  • New teacher applicants, including the best, are lost to late hiring.
  • Novice teachers are treated as expendable. 

The report also proposes a set of specific reforms for policymakers to improve the quality of education in city classrooms by enabling the best match of teacher to school.