Paying teachers who don’t teach

The Boston Public Schools will be spending an estimated $8 million this year paying teachers who won’t be teaching. Is that a colossal waste of money, or simply a cost of doing business?

It started out in 2014 as a noble experiment. Many principals were grumbling that they often were saddled with educators they didn’t want through a complicated process that allowed excess teachers to use their seniority to land open positions they wanted. To avoid this “dance of the lemons,” many principals played all sorts of games, often putting off filling positions until the summer months.

John McDonough, the interim superintendent at the time, wanted to give all his principals the power to hire the teachers they wanted. So he took advantage of a loophole in the teachers’ contract that allowed principals to hire the candidate of their choice as long as they paid the person a $1,250 stipend.

The problem was that permanent teachers left unhired at the end of the process still had to be paid and the cost ran into the millions of dollars. The excess teachers didn’t just sit idle; they typically filled support roles, working as aides to other teachers or filling in as substitutes.

A top aide to McDonough said in 2014 that he expected the number of so-called excess teachers to keep dropping steadily and disappear over the next three years as teachers were absorbed into the system or removed via the performance evaluation process. “The number has to go down year after year,” the aide said. “This is a transition cost. We’re going to deal with it.”

The cost is declining and the number of excess teachers is diminishing, but the problem hasn’t gone away as the program enters its third year. There were 163 teachers without a position at the start of the 2015-2016 school year, and that number has dropped to 102 this year, with the help of a $1.4 million voluntary severance package that prompted 22 teachers to exit the school system. There has also been a lot of churn; only eight teachers failed to land a post all three years.

The Boston Public Schools initially committed $6 million to cover the cost of teachers unable to land a posting, and set out to raise another $25 million from foundations and private donors. There hasn’t been much talk lately about private donations, suggesting the cost is now being borne by the district.

That may explain why a Boston Globe editorial urges the Boston Teachers Union to accept a contract provision that would allow the district to fire unassigned permanent teachers who aren’t applying for multiple jobs. The Globe reports that about 50 of the 102 unassigned teachers fall in that category.

It’s hard to believe the union will agree to the proposed contract provision, which means a day of reckoning is coming for the Boston Public Schools hiring initiative. Is it a cost of doing business in Boston, or is it a poor use of scarce resources?



Questions are raised about the accuracy of the Boston Globe’s story suggesting Sen. Brian Joyce shortchanged Milton on property taxes, as the town’s assessor says all the permits needed for work on the home were pulled. (CommonWealth)

Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt urges the City Council to press on Beacon Hill for 20 more liquor licenses and an amendment that would allow in-law apartments and group homes to qualify as affordable housing. (Salem News)

The Senate chamber will undergo renovations next year, which means the body will have to find temporary digs in the State House. (State House News)


Weymouth Mayor Robert Hedlund is reviving a proposal by his predecessor to place security cameras in a public housing complex that can be viewed remotely by Weymouth police. (Patriot Ledger)

Neighbors rally around a gay couple in Natick after a rainbow flag they flew was taken and their house was pelted with eggs. (Boston Globe)

High dudgeon: Questions are being raised about Boston City Councilor Mark Ciommo’s strong push for a medical marijuana license for a firm that has hired his political consultant — and his strenuous objections to the proposal of a competing applicant. (Boston Globe)


A federal judge in Texas temporarily blocks President Obama’s transgender bathroom rules. (Governing)

On the 20th anniversary of the signing of the landmark federal welfare reform act, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who was a leading House Republican when the measure was enacted, says in an op-ed that it didn’t work. (New York Times) But his one-time presidential rival Sen. Marco Rubio says in his own op-ed that it did, it just needs some updating. (National Review)


The Democratic State Committee vote to oppose the November ballot question raising the charter school cap is raising hackles within the party, with Liam Kerr of the pro-charter group Democrats for Education Reform calling for a poll of registered Democrats in the state to gauge whether the state committee move reflects their views. (Boston Herald)

Former secretary of state Colin Powell says the Clinton campaign is “trying to pin it on me,” but he said his conversation with Hillary Clinton about his use of private email came long after she already was using her own personal server. (U.S. News & World Report)

A Herald editorial says it’s time to shut down the Clinton Foundation.

Amid speculation that he is backing away from his core issue on immigration restrictions, Donald Trump postponed a planned speech in Colorado on immigration and cancelled a rally in Las Vegas the following day. (U.S. News & World Report)

Former Worcester state representative John Fresolo, who resigned three years ago amidst an ethics investigation, is now drawing scrutiny over questionable tactics he is employing in a bid to win his old seat back this November by running under the United Independent Party banner. (Boston Globe)


The Massachusetts economy ranked No. 1 among states in an analysis done by Governing magazine. Connecticut, our neighbor to the south, ranked No. 42.

Five fantasy sports companies are given permission to resume doing business in New York. (Time)


Michael Contompasis, out of retirement to lead Boston Latin School in the wake of allegations of racism, said the biggest change between now and when he left the school 18 years ago is the rise of social media. (WBUR)

The Brockton School Committee voted unanimously to eliminate the word “housemaster” for school administrators because the term evokes images of slavery. (The Enterprise)

Race issues are swirling on the Smith College campus following the leak of letters from college faculty. (Boston Globe)

A study of Texas charter schools finds that the higher test scores the schools seem to bring don’t translate into to higher earnings or better jobs in adulthood. (Boston Globe)


A revamped prescription monitoring system went live on Monday, allowing doctors to check a patient’s history on prescriptions for opioid medications quickly and efficiently. (Gloucester Times)

Nonprofit hospitals increasingly have extensive business ties that could create sticky conflicts of interest for hospital administrators and board members, according to a review by the Wall Street Journal of IRS filings.


With electronic tolling set to start on the Massachusetts Turnpike October 28, drivers are urged to pick up a free transponder or face the prospect of paying more. Even with a transponder, nearly half of drivers will pay less and half will pay more because of the configuration of 16 overhead gantries. (CommonWealth)

Leonard Fournier is the state’s new toll payer advocate. (Mass Live)

The Federal Aviation Administration awards a $1.4 million grant to Worcester Airport to enhance runway lighting. (Telegram & Gazette)


The National Weather Service confirmed it was an EF-1 level tornado, the lowest category but which still carried winds of 100 mph, that ripped through Concord, damaging 39 homes but with no serious injuries or loss of life. (MetroWest Daily News)

Ipswich declares a drought emergency, which immediately bans all outside water use and limits  non-essential indoor water use. (Salem News) Gloucester also imposes restrictions on water use, but some outdoor watering is still allowed. (Gloucester Times)

The Braintree municipal power company is trying to get residents to buy electric vehicles by offering a number of incentives, including arranging at-home driving tests. (Patriot Ledger)


Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone and Wynn Resorts are making nice, signing an agreement promising to be good neighbors. (CommonWealth)


A judge in Worcester denies bail to a woman accused of planning mass murder at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. (Telegram & Gazette)

An Eagle-Tribune editorial praises the Supreme Judicial Court for overturning a lower court judge’s decision to release a man on bail. The man had slapped his wife, led police on a chase, and pointed a shotgun at two officers.

A nun who was robbed on a Quincy street corner of her rosary beads is urging leniency and forgiveness for the accused thieves. (Boston Herald)

Officials say animals found buried on a Westport farm where more than 1,000 animals were allegedly abused likely died of starvation. (Standard-Times)


Melania Trump threatens legal action against a host of publications for stories suggesting she was an “escort” in the 1990s. (Poynter)

Andrea Tantaros, a former host at Fox News, has filed a suit claiming she was punished for rebuffing and complaining about sexual advances by former chairman Roger Ailes and host Bill O’Reilly. (New York Times)


The most-compelling evidence yet that Title IX has had a major impact on girls’ sports is the American medal count, which shows if US women were a country by themselves, they would have placed third overall, behind China and Britain but ahead of US men. (New York Times) But Keller@Large says there was an even bigger winner: Boston, for not having the Olympics.