Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

Bad teachers are impossible to fire

The Albany Times Union has a must-read report today that demonstrates just how difficult it is to fire a misbehaving educator in New York state. How difficult? Teachers who were late 101 times, downloaded porn on their work computers, and beat students all remained on the job after a costly appeals process. The problem is so bad that many districts don’t even bring cases because of the cost:

according to a state Education Department database obtained by the Times Union through a Freedom of Information request, it appears to be nearly impossible for a school district to fire a tenured public school teacher. The reason is twofold: job protection for unionized teachers is strong and the process for firing bad teachers — called a 3020-a hearing — is so drawn out and costly that most districts can’t afford it. …

Though it has been well-documented that the cases drag on for years and can cost a district hundreds of thousands of dollars — they last an average of 502 days and cost $216,588 — the database shows that 3020-a hearings rarely result in termination. Of the more than 2,000 cases brought in the last five years, just 167 teachers were fired, the vast majority in New York City. Only 38 cases brought by schools districts upstate and on Long Island ended in termination, though a number are still undecided because it takes so long for a case to be completed. Statewide, 593 cases were simply settled and another 164 were withdrawn or consolidated.

Even though the New York City Department of Education employs about half as many teachers as the rest of the districts in the state, it brought twice as many 3020-a cases. The NYCDOE employs 70,000 full-time teachers and brought 1,356 such cases in the last five years, according to the database. On Long Island and in upstate, where there are a combined 132,000 teachers, districts brought just 731 cases.

Emphasis added, because it’s important point out that, over a five year period, only 38 of 132,000 teachers in upstate New York (i.e., teachers outside of New York City) were fired for any reason whatsoever. When people complain about union work rules serving as an impediment to reform, this is the kind of nonsense they’re talking about.

Categories: Center for Union FactsTeachers Unions