Gov. Chris Christie’s operation of the Newark schools wastes some $25 million a year in public funds to pay teachers who don’t teach–teachers who spend all day in so-called “rubber rooms” or at home, doing nothing to earn the money they are paid. It’s something he’ll never bring up in his presidential campaign trips to Iowa or New Hampshire–but New Jersey’s governor is OK with no-show school jobs in the state’s largest city.
This site has acquired a document, dubbed “Managed Choice,” that lists the names of 402 instructional employees who spend their days doing nothing and getting paid for it because they have lost their positions but cannot be taken off the payroll because most have perfectly good records. Ninety percent of the instructors are tenured. They are called “educators without placement”–or EWPS. They did not choose to be idle and they hate it–but it was Christie’s decision to put them there.
At a conservative estimate of an average salary of $60,000 per teacher, that represents some $25 million a year in taxpayer funds flushed down the sewer of corruption and ineptitude that is Christie’s control of the Newark schools. The figure is probably much larger because many of the EWPS teachers are experienced and at the higher end of the pay scale.
The list also does not include the scores of administrators who also have been transformed into “educators without placement”–or EWPS. That would add millions to the money wasted by Christie’s agent in Newark, state-imposed superintendent Cami Anderson.
Anderson’s administration faces a deficit of at least $57 million this year, a fiscal hole the Glen Ridge resident managed to dig for herself and the Newark schools in her more than three-year tenure. Christie, who constantly praises what a great job Anderson does, rewarded her wasteful spending and ineptitude this year by giving her another three-year contract. Christie owns the corruption in the Newark school administration. Unlike his claims about Fort Lee and the blockade of the George Washington Bridge, his stubby fingerprints are all over this scandal. He knows about this waste of public funds and he has encouraged it to continue.
One administrator EWP is Tony Motley, the former principal of the Bragaw Avenue School, an institution handed over to a privately-operated charter school chain whose principals have close business and personal ties to Anderson, former state Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf, and former Mayor Cory Booker, now a United States senator. Motley, a vice president of the union representing school administrators, was one of five principals removed from their jobs early this year for raising questions about Anderson’s “One Newark” plan. He never got his job back.
A few weeks ago, Motley told me he did “nothing” in his EWPS rubber room at 2 Cedar Street, Anderson’s headquarters. At times, he worked on his doctoral dissertation, he said.
The EWPS list for teachers is dated July 31, 2014. Some of the names may have been removed from that list–others have been added. Earlier this year, the Newark Teachers Union estimated that at least 300 teachers were EWPs so the number is apparently growing. No precise tally as of this date is available but hundreds of teacher and other school employees, through no personal fault of their own, are drawing paychecks without working.
The document bears this warning in, appropriately, red ink: “**Confidential . Internal use ONLY. Please do NOT redistribute** Internal Candidates – Available for Managed Choice.”
It’s no surprise Anderson would want to keep this list confidential, a secret. It is evidence both of massive waste of public funds and her ineptitude–all on Chris Christie’s watch. Neither he nor his education commissioner, David Hespe, has done anything to stop it. They are complicit.
EWPS are not teachers who have been brought up on tenure charges–or suspended. Most of these educational employees are in good standing. The huge list of unused personnel is a direct result of what Cami Anderson’s backers in the media call her “bold and sensible” reforms–like, for example, so-called “Renew schools.”
Anderson is claiming “Renew schools” are doing well–and The Star-Ledger unquestioningly echoes the boast–but she refuses to release the statistics that would prove her right or wrong. What is known about “Renew” and other “redesigned” schools is that principals willing to back Anderson are given a free hand in firing teachers without cause and sending them to EWPS central. They hire their friends and the people they don’t like go off to rubber rooms and collect salaries without providing educational the services they are capable of doing–and licensed to do.
Worse, Anderson is committed to hiring scores of Teach for America (TFA) graduates–and, indeed, she has been hiring them while sending veteran teachers to EWPs centers. Anderson herself was a TFA executive and the organization supports her goals of closing neighborhood schools and expanding charters.
They can’t be taken off the payroll because they haven’t done anything wrong–they apparently just haven’t struck the fancy of principals who want to “renew” their staffs.
Anderson tried to rid the schools of these teachers last year when she sought to obtain a waiver of lay off procedures from the state education department. Hespe hid the request in his vest pocket, never accepting or rejecting it–but that doesn’t mean he won’t bring the waiver up again.
The expensive transformation of teachers into professional zombies hanging around the Limbos of schools and 2 Cedar Street reveals a pattern that proves it’s part of Anderson’s distorted policies. The dismissal of teachers is not random and is not spread equally among all schools in all wards of the city. Rather, many teachers have been let go from schools in the South, West, and Central Wards that have received the Christie regime’s special attention, while the North and East Wards generally are untouched:
- Louis Munoz Marin–25
- William Horton–25
- West Side–20
- Newark Vocational–17
- Barringer Arts and Humanities–13
- Newark Bridges–13
- Louse Spencer–12
- Madison Street–12
The types of teachers assigned to the rubber rooms also reflect what Anderson is doing to disrupt Newark’s neighborhood public schools. By type of teacher, these are the most likely to lose their positions to “renewal” or “redesign”:
- Elementary school teachers–90
- Special education teachers–61
- Guidance counselors–23
- Physical education teachers–19
- Social workers–16
- Mathematics teachers–15
- Art teachers–13
- Technology coordinators–13
Some might also see a pattern in the rate of participation of assistant superintendents in the exiling of teachers to the EWPS gulag. Gary Beidleman presided over the most–with 79, followed by Roger Leon, 59, and Brad Haggerty, 51.
Anderson’s rubber rooms are only part of the story of how state control cheats Newark’s students and taxpayers from throughout New Jersey. Another side is the failure of Christie’s agent to provide appropriately licensed instructors for Newark’s children. In its next installment, this blog will introduce readers to a teacher who, after spending two years as a EWPS is now teaching outside his license–way outside his license.