Friday, March 20, 2020

MASSIVE Layoffs & "Attrition" On the Way: Prepare Now

Just a quick update: I just noticed how many page views this post has received in hone hour Colleagues: Chill! Everything you are about to read is tomorrow's problem. Today's challenge is to find a way to do the best we can for our students under the circumstances If you want to read about tomorrow's problem, then please read on.  But if you're not there yet, and you are just facing today,, then stop reading now and just come back to this in a few months. Okay thanks.

I hope this title caught your attention.
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By now, you probably see that the entire state and city are shut down and that, unless you are an large airline, the national government will not be coming to anyone's rescue.

And I know you're probably home scared of the virus right now but you should also begin to think about what comes next -and what comes next is, as Norm Scott described "A dismal decade ahead" (here). So read slowly while I lay out what this means for us.

The economy has simply stopped. This is worse than ten years ago when the banking and credit markets simply stopped. This time, the entire economy has simply stopped. The doomsayers were right. The governments were simply not prepared for an emergency. Everything has simply stopped.

Tax collection has stopped as well and that is from where our salaries come.

In three month's time, state and local governments will have passed austerity budgets. Now Cuomo is pushing to get the state budget passed on time and he may actually be doing us all a favor with that. This is because the outlook will be much worse on May 1 than it will on April 1 but that is a story for another time. For now, just understand, as we move toward 20% unemployment, the state and local budgets will be terrible.

This will mean two things for New York teachers. Layoffs and Attrition.

And attrition will become a very dark and sinister policy in the months -and years- to come. More on that in a moment.

For now, it is a good idea to get prepared NOW. The first step is to understand layoffs.


Layoffs, if they happen (and I believe there is an excellent chance that they will) only happen in the following manner:

First, they layoff according to your license. So if layoffs happen, the DoE will announce which licenses are subject to the layoffs. Pay careful attention to this announcement from the UFT (not the DoE and not the press. Only the UFT will accurately tell us which licenses). Your license may be exempt! Your license may be on the chopping block!  You won't know for sure until UFT tells you.

THEN, within that license, they layoff by seniority. LIFO is the policy we have followed for decades now. This means that, within that license, if your license is even called, The LAST IN is the FIRST OUT. Again .. within that license.

Third, layoffs are city-wide. Not by your school. Just know that. You may have the lowest seniority in your school but have 15 years in the system. Under a situation like layoffs, they count the 15 years you have in the system, not the 1 year you may have in your school.  Know that. And don't believe anyone else who tells you otherwise.

What should you do?

1. Get your seniority number just as soon as you can. Each of us has a number of our seniority. If the time approaches, the DRs will have it. At that time call and nag your DR until you get it. These numbers are city-wide seniority within your license. So if you're the most senior math teacher in New York City, you will know.

2. Start saving now. Just to be safe. Even if you are not laid off, you may find yourself traveling a little further or experiencing some other cost you had not anticipated. I am on the nickel and dime plan until further notice.

3. Pay attention, but only listen to your union. If layoffs come, they will come along with a propaganda campaign the likes of which we haven't seen since the Bloomberg days. State government will lie to you. City government may lie to you. Your principal will lie to you. Only believe the word of the union during this time. Folks may not trust the union or may, like me, look upon the UFT a loving but critical lens, but the UFT was built for moments like that. They won't lie with the information you need. Not when it comes to that.


This is the policy that is so dark and sinister that it launched many many EDU blogs. This will be the true challenge every city school teacher will have to face.

Essentially, attrition means lowering the number of employees by firing them or convincing them to resign. This is where the city and the DoE will make it ugly. If the last example is any indication, it will be tough. For us in the NYCDoE, this will mean three things:

1. A rigorous enforcement of existing DoE Chancellor's Regulations. This means MORE investigators. The DoE will be hiring -investigators. Expect every single little infraction to be investigated -and be prepared for it to go to a hearing. EXPECT that your actions will be investigated. EXPECT to be sent to a 3020-A hearing. EXPECT everyone involved in that process to speak to you as if you should not be employed -as if you don't have a right to be employed. EXPECT the worst and, if it happens, you will be tough enough to get through it. It will, very much, be a "gotcha" environment.  So be prepared for that and Don't.Get.Got. (We'll all be writing more about that when the time comes).

2. Expect a tightening of existing regulations. The chancellor regs will be tightened so much as to catch as many of us as possible in some type of infraction. For example, the DoE social media policy will probably be tightened and may well become a Chancellor's Regulation. Imagine a world where the DoE updates its Chancellor's Regulation about homework (yes, there is one. Rudy Crew, I believe) and says that all teachers must grade and submit every day. Now imagine you miss a day and a week later an investigator calls you in and two months later you find yourself in a hearing. That is the type of work environment you should be prepared to drive to work in.

3. This is also mean harassment at the job site. Expect principal to speak poorly to you. Expect to be gaslight-ed. Expect an enormous amount of letters to your file. Every single school leader will be put in a position where there will be an economic incentive in getting teachers -many of whom are high in salary- to leave their budget, either by hook or by crook -and then they will be trained on how to get you out.  Is your salary over 80,000? Expect to be micromanaged and driven insane by an admin. Do you have to drop your kids off before work? Expect to be micromanaged and driven insane by an admin. Are you outspoken? Expect to be micromanaged and driven insane by an admin. In the environment that settles -maybe in as little as 18 months- expect to be a target by your administrators. This will be a fight -to the death- for that $80,000 a year salary of yours. Don't focus on being liked. Focus on surviving with you $ in tact. And don't expect the UFT to be there for you all the time here. The Bloomberg administration showed everyone where, within the UFT, the imperfections are -and the union itself will be off fighting different battles (state attacks on LIFE will be back. Drastic cuts to state budgets will be back on the table. Crazy arguments like merit pay and new teacher evals and a brand new assault on tenure will all be fought in Albany and in Washington. At every turn, your challenge will have to be "what do I need to do to survive with my job".

That's attrition. That's the extent of it. Gotcha squads and questions about LIFO and tenure and a malaise that drops across our all district. Again.

So, today, hold your family close. Be thankful that you are one of a very few who A) gets their full pay AND B) gets to stay at home and be as safe as you can. But when this nor'easter now known as COVID-19 ends, and when they are all done with talking about "unity" and about how "we're all in this together" there will be another storm, soon to form on the horizon, and that storm will feel more like several years of a bad hurricane.

Be prepared.


  1. I am a licensed PE teacher and a licensed common branch teacher. I have 22 years in. If they lay off all PE teachers would I still be saved due to my common branch license? I am tenured in both licenses.

  2. I am special ed license with tenure. I am in my 5th year, hopefully I am safe.

  3. in your opinion -any chance cuomo offers a teacher buyout- i am under 50 but over twenty years in the system. ill take my 2% per and run to the hills

  4. I think a buyout will happen.

  5. as usual ATRS will be the first to be scapegoated. i know lifo protects us but???

  6. I am an ATR teacher who completed the 55/25 requirement. Since New York City usually offers buyouts during tough economic times, is there any posibility that they offer a 2020 July buyout even though they already offer the $50,000 buyout to ATRs that retired last summer 2019?

  7. Are you over/under 50 years old? that may be a key question.