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N.Y.C. Union Strikes Back at Tenure Allegations

New York City teachers' union is firing back at a recently filed lawsuit challenging teacher tenure and due process, asserting that the state's due-process rules end up helping many more tenured teachers leave the profession than critics allege.

Yesterday, the United Federation of Teachers released data from its parent union, the New York State United Teachers, which provides the legal assistance for teachers in the hearings. Between 2012-13 and 2013-14, a total of 637 cases were opened under the state's "3020a" disciplinary process. A total of 484 of the cases were resolved, and the median time for serving a teacher with charges to a settlement was 105 days, the union claimed. 

Of the resolved cases, 140 teachers accused of incompetence were terminated, resigned, or retired; a handful of others were fined or given remediation. For cases of misconduct, 196 teachers were fined and 76 were terminated, resigned, or retired. A handful of others were suspended or had their charges withdrawn.

On top of all that, the UFT says that about 500 probationary teachers each year leave because they're either denied tenure, don't return to the classroom after leave, or fail to meet state certification requirements.

The figures don't include teachers who were represented by private counsel rather than by the union. And NYSUT didn't separate out which teachers were terminated versus those who settled their cases, a process that can yield either a resignation, a suspension, or a fine. Just this week, The Wall Street Journal reported that, in New York City at least, it is far more likely for a teacher to reach a settlement than to be fired

The UFT also claims that the New York City school district hasn't made use of an expedited procedure, negotated through a collective bargaining agreement, meant to speed up discipline in cases where penalties other than termination are sought. "They have made the process longer by not seeking the appropriate process in the appropriate case," a UFT attorney said.

City education officials couldn't immediately verify the union data. 

The figures still represent just a tiny fraction of the city's teaching population, which was more than 67,000 full-time teachers in 2012-13. The question for the courts to wrestle with—and it's a largely conceptual one—is whether the process captures all of the teachers who are potentially not performing up to snuff, and then whether these results are appropriate given the charges.

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