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Campaign for Fiscal Equity

Weeks of November 2, November 9 and November 16

Conditions in New York:

Skilled teachers are perhaps the most important element in a child's educational experience. This is particularly important for students in high-needs areas like New York City, where the quality of teaching becomes even more significant because there may not be other adults with the time or inclination to help that child learn.

Unfortunately, those students with the greatest needs are often being taught by the least-prepared and least-qualified teachers. Nearly one out of every seven teachers in New York City lacks New York State certification. Nearly 1 in 4 has less than five years of teaching experience. Those schools with the highest numbers of poor and minority students tend to have the highest numbers of uncertified teachers. NYC also has among the highest rates of teacher turnover in the state.

CFE's position:

Students cannot possibly have the opportunity for a sound basic education without qualified, experienced teachers. Certification is a minimum qualification that every New York State teacher should have. Teachers must also have the training, professional development, and supports they need to help students meet the state's new high standards.

New York City and other high-needs districts are not being provided with the resources to attract, train and retain quality teachers. NYC currently has among the lowest teacher salaries in the state despite the area's high cost of living. According the State Education Department figures, the median NYC teacher salary for 1997-98 was $47,345 -- almost $1,500 below the state average and more than $17,000 below the average paid by downstate suburban districts. The downstate suburbs directly compete with NYC for teachers.

In addition to lower salaries, NYC teachers face dilapidated facilities, overcrowded classes and other difficult working conditions. As a result, many of the best and most experienced teachers leave to work in surrounding suburbs.

The new Regents Learning Standards have raised the bar not only for students, but for teachers and school administrators. If the State is truly going to provide all of its students with the opportunity for a sound basic education, it must provide NYC and other high-needs districts with the resources necessary to build a skilled, experienced and effective teaching force.

Witnesses for plaintiffs on this issue include:

Randi Weingarten, President, United Federation of Teachers

Ronald Ferguson, Harvard University

Linda Darling-Hammond, Stanford University

Hamilton Lankford, State University of New York at Albany

Helaine Doran, Senior Policy Analyst, New York City Public Advocate's Office

Doris Garner, Staff Coordinator, Regents Task Force on Teaching

Howard Tames, Executive Director, Division of Human Resources, New York City Board of Education

Caryl Cohen, Deputy Executive Director, Educational Staff Recruitment, New York City Board of Education

Granger Ward, former Superintendent, Manhattan High School District

Randi Weingarten testified about the problems facing teachers in the NYC public schools, including overcrowded classes, poor working conditions, and a lack of professional development. With the implementation of the new Regents standards, she said, the need for better training and support for teachers will only increase, since the standards represent a dramatic shift in basic methods and "the biggest challenge in this school system today." Ms. Weingarten said that low teacher salaries in the City have made it the "school system of last resort" and "give the world the impression that teaching in New York City is not to be valued."

Both Jeanne Millman and Howard Tames testified about the shortage of qualified personnel in the NYC school system. Ms. Millman said that the shortage of qualified science teachers in NYC has reached crisis proportions, as 30% of the City's science teachers are uncertified, compared with only 6% in the rest of the state. Mr. Tames testified that there are currently 1,091 administrator positions open in City schools, and the projected number of teacher vacancies between 1999 and 2004 is 54,113.

Three witnesses discussed the City's difficulty in recruiting and developing high-quality teachers. Doris Garner testified about the state legislature's failure to fund a "Teacher Incentive Program" recommended by the Regents Task Force on Teaching. The program would have included scholarships for new teachers and mentoring programs. Caryl Cohen testified to the conditions that make New York City a "last resort" district for many teachers and described the City's efforts to recruit new teachers, including ad campaigns and tuition scholarships. Granger Ward decried the quality of teachers and the conditions they must work under in NYC. Mr. Ward said that certification should be considered only a minimum of preparation for teachers, and argued that the satisfactory rating given to most City teachers has become virtually meaningless, since an unsatisfactory rating is so rarely given.

State's anticipated position:

State attorneys have indicated that they believe New York City's teachers are under-worked and enjoy too many benefits. The State is likely to challenge the importance of experience in a teacher's effectiveness. The State may also argue that certain qualifications, such as a Master's degree in the subject being taught or the ability to pass certification exams, are irrelevant to a teacher's ability to teach.

Parents from across the state march on the Capitol in Albany to show support for CFE.
CFE Litigation CFE v. State of New York
In 2006, after 13 years in the Courts, the New York State Court of Appeals affirmed the right of every public school student in New York to the opportunity for a sound basic education and the state’s responsibility to adequately fund this right, but deferred to the Governor and the Legislature to determine the appropriate amount. more >