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The NYC Teachers Union's Local Office... in Boca Raton?

New York City's teachers may do well to ask why their union, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), has an office in Boca Raton, Florida. A recent article in the New York Post figured that rent alone for the Boca Raton branch costs UFT members $183,603 per year. That's not peanuts for a union fretting about its financially strapped members.

One reason for the Boca branch, as I noted a little while back, is that the retirees in the UFT are more active in UFT elections than the current teachers. The UFT website notes, "The UFT maintains an office in Boca Raton to service our retired members in Florida. These members make up a potent voting bloc, last year helping to elect two new members of Congress with favorable positions on our issues." NYC teachers may wonder whether their retired brethren are allies, or a competing constituency.

It turns out that the Boca office also helps retired teachers more easily take advantage of their "retention rights," a little known contractual clause that gives priority to established teachers, regardless of effectiveness, in "per session" extracurricular activities (that is, time not included in the contracted school day). Per session activities include vacation day camps, adult ed, summer school, and coaching.

Retention rights mean that coaching assignments or summer school instruction work a lot like taxi medallions. They give the holders a death grip on the position until they choose to relinquish it. The UFT contract states that, "Teachers with at least two years of continuous satisfactory service in a particular activity shall have priority for retention in the same activity for the following school year." NYC Department of Ed's Regulation of the Chancellor C-175 confirms that this provision applies to retirees as well, noting, "Persons who are not primarily employed by the DOE (e.g., retirees and part-time employees)...may claim retention rights under the Teachers' Agreement."

In other words, former teachers who desire a few extra bucks for greens fees or lawn care can up and keep returning to New York City to teach summer school--bumping current teachers from these per session jobs. And, so long as they keep doing it, they can keep doing it.

One reliable source in the NYCDOE estimates that there are "hundreds of teachers who take advantage of retention rights." At the per session hourly rate of $41.98, with average summer school lengths ranging from 60 to 150 hours, the average per session teacher is earning between $2,500 and $6,300--that's probably a million bucks or more a year that snow birds are claiming from current teachers.

Especially when cash is scarce, giving retirees the right to lay claim to summer jobs that would otherwise go to current employees seems foolish--forgetting for the moment even about whether these folks are still sharp in the classroom. This is a clear case of where the UFT is serving dueling masters--current teachers and retirees--and seems to have opted for the latter.

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The opinions expressed in Rick Hess Straight Up are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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