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New York City to Pay $1.8 Billion to Former Teachers as Students Continue to Struggle

Posted on Friday, July 22, 2022
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by David Lewis Schaefer
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86 Comments
Teachers

AMAC Exclusive – By David Lewis Schaefer

Thousands of former Black and Latino teachers in New York City stand to collect an astonishing $1.8 billion in damages after the city stopped fighting a decades-long discrimination lawsuit which alleged that a licensing test that teachers were formerly required to pass was biased. But while the evidence of such discrimination remains dubious, students in New York City schools have continued to underachieve at an alarming rate, even as many flee the public school system entirely.

Between 1990 and 2014, New York State required all public school teachers to pass a Liberal Arts and Sciences Test in order to maintain their teaching license. In 1996, a group of minority teachers and prospective educators filed a lawsuit to abolish the testing requirement, citing a disparity in passage rates between white and minority test-takers. As the Wall Street Journal reported, “at times, over 90% of white test takers passed, compared with fewer than 62% of Black test takers and 55% of Latinos.”

A turning point for those bringing the lawsuit was a 2012 ruling by Judge Kimba Wood (who had once achieved celebrity as one of President Bill Clinton’s failed nominees for Attorney General). Wood found that the licensing test violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act since city officials failed to demonstrate a direct correlation between performance on the test and classroom performance, as measured by “concrete metrics.” In other words, Wood argued, requiring teachers to know the information asked about on the test – much of which, it can be safely assumed, high school graduates are expected to know themselves – is not necessary for teachers to perform their duties in the classroom. Therefore, the disparity in performance on the test amounted to arbitrary racial discrimination against minority teachers who did not pass it.

While the state subsequently scrapped the original test in favor of a simpler one (the legality of which may now also be open to challenge), Wood’s judgment paved the way for thousands of minority teachers who previously failed the test, in some cases multiple times, to sue for damages from New York City.

Under the settlement just reached, the city has already given payouts totaling $835 million, with up to another billion potentially in play. One teacher cited by the Journal was Sylvia Alvarez, who will receive $1.1 million after failing the test ten times and ultimately losing her job. Another former teacher, Theodore Regis, who lost his teaching job after failing the test five times, “earned” himself a payout of $1.2 million.

What to make of this outcome? First of all, as the standard axiom of social science holds, correlation does not necessarily entail causation.” And this principle is surely relevant here. The mere fact that white teachers passed at a higher rate than minority teachers does not in itself prove that the city was discriminating against the latter. Objective observers might also note that it hardly seems arbitrary to expect those charged with educating youngsters in our public schools to demonstrate a basic knowledge of essential academic subjects.  

But above all, what this outcome indicates is an utter disregard for what should be the foremost, in fact the sole, priority of a public school system: the academic achievement of students themselves.

By this standard, New York City public schools have been failing miserably for decades. As far back as the 2018-19 academic year, per-pupil spending in the city was $28,004, by far the highest among the nation’s 100 largest school systems. By 2022, according to the New York Post, it had risen to $34,900 per pupil, a growth rate of more than twice the inflation figure from 2000-2021. Yet parents have been pulling their kids from the city’s public schools in droves, and not only because some are emigrating to other states like Florida that offer lower taxes and a reduction of the excessive masking and lockdown requirements that the city imposed at the behest of the teachers’ unions. While Mayor Eric Adams has remarked that city schools are suffering from “a massive hemorrhaging of students,” with an anticipated drop in enrollment of 28,000 this fall, the teachers’ unions are firmly opposing even a modest reduction in the education budget – meaning that per pupil spending is expected to go even higher.

As an example of the waste to which New York City’s education budget is prone, New York Post columnist Karol Marokowicz cites the recent attendance by Schools Chancellor David Banks and more than 50 other staffers at a conference “at a swanky hotel near Universal Studios in Orlando.” In contrast to public school students, who had to Zoom for their education for over a year, “the grownups need to meet up near theme parks to discuss their education plan.”

Meanwhile, however, students in another form of public schools – charter schools – are often flourishing, despite receiving much less government funding. As former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently observed, not only do charters average higher math and reading scores than “traditional” public schools, “research has found that the benefits are especially pronounced for Black, Latino, and low-income students.” Eighth graders in New York’s largest charter-school network, Success Academy, recently excelled in four of the five Regent exams that are required for graduation from high school. The students’ overall pass rates on all the exams were a stunning 93% or higher.

Unfortunately, entry into charter schools in New York City, as in many other cities and states across the country, is limited: applicants need to win a lottery to gain admission. (As of 2019, over 50,000 children were on wait lists seeking admission to charter schools in the city.) New York State, at the behest of teachers’ unions, has imposed a cap prohibiting the opening of new charters. Despite the cap, charter school enrollment has grown by 9 per cent since the start of the pandemic, while private Catholic school enrollment is rising as well.

Those who defend the invalidation of the teacher test because of the differing success rates achieved by different demographics purport to be acting in the pursuit of social justice. But isn’t the real social-justice issue that of getting the best qualified teachers into public school classrooms? For anyone genuinely concerned with advancing the fortunes of every student, including racial and ethnic minorities, surely providing them the highest quality education possible should be the utmost concern.

If public schools are prohibited by judges and union contracts from achieving that goal, the only remedies lie in empowering parents and students with more choice in their children’s education. As any parent knows, it doesn’t matter what gender, race, or religion a teacher is. It just matters how well they prepare their students with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed – knowledge and skills teachers themselves need to possess in order to impart them to students. That, and that alone, should be the most important measuring stick for educators.

David Lewis Schaefer is a Professor of Political Science at College of the Holy Cross.

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Susan Miller
Susan Miller
1 year ago

Wow! Stupid privilege pays a lot better than white privilege.

Jerry
Jerry
1 year ago

Keep voting demorat, this is what you deserve, maby some day you will wise up

Anthony
Anthony
1 year ago

It’s time to abandon NYC because we already pay taxes for teachers and now will have to pay more for sub-par performance achieving nothing but higher cost to live in NYC. This is an outrageous award for teachers that still can’t teach.

BOB M.
BOB M.
1 year ago

What about MERIT? I’m a retired (Sp.Ed) Teacher, certified in NY State. I had to pass the National Teacher exam, a test to teach Elementary School, a test to teach Special Ed., etc., and EARN 2 Masters’ degrees to get certified; So what? I’ve worked alongside MANY teachers of color who ALSO took and passed the same tests. All of this having been sad, I’ve also known many people who would have made great teachers but they either couldn’t afford college, or found it too demanding (either physically, financially, or emotionally) and found other careers. To say that the test(s) are somehow biased is ludicrous! The test(s) don’t care what gender or color one is.

gil
gil
1 year ago

Just the fact that you have to have a different test for blacks, latinos, etc. shows racism. All teachers that teach our children should be held at the same level of intellect, should they not? This is ridiculous.

Denise
Denise
1 year ago

If you cannot pass a test after numerous times, why weren’t outside resources sought to help with a better test score? Let’s get back to basics with reading, writing, and math. With what is going on in today’s educational system, we need to make our schools better or there won’t be many left!!!!!

Lisa
Lisa
1 year ago

New York is a joke and so is anyone still living in that POS state!

Mark
Mark
1 year ago

Good for you, New York voters, you can afford it. After alll it is what you wanted!

Bigapple
Bigapple
1 year ago

Billions paid to former teachers does nothing for students, current or past. Yet another expensive debacle for New Yorkers.

GRAmerican
GRAmerican
1 year ago

Paying out because someone failed a test and they are part of a special social class is absolutely wrong. A person is a person. Created in the Image of GOD. Race and social class are a distant second. It comes down to the individual.

John
John
1 year ago

Tells you something about who the smarter teachers are. 90%, Hell Yeah.

Jeanette
Jeanette
1 year ago

Most teachers are excellent but the Union they belong to needs to either disappear or be taken down a peg or twi and not be so powerful. In the past unions were created to support their members but these days they often work against the members. Let the teachers “teach” as intended; stop making them adhere to political agendas.

Randy
Randy
9 months ago

This is why New York education system is failing,if these people couldn’t pass a test then they shouldn’t be teaching our kids

John
John
9 months ago

This is exactly why I voted Republican. Typical Dem comeback would be something about me being uneducated to which I’d respond I received and attended an Ivy on a six figure scholarship, so more educated than 99% of Dems

PaulE
PaulE
1 year ago

The teachers unions in New York long ago seized control of the education system in the state. They are, after all, one of the biggest if not THE BIGGEST contributors to the Democrat Party in the state. So one hand washes the other in terms of the Democrat politicians, who completely dominate the state, protecting the teachers unions from any and all scrutiny or accountability. The teachers unions control what is taught, how it is taught and they shield their under-perfoming teachers from any real accountability or disciple. Google “rubber room for teachers” to get a sense to the lengths NY has gone over the decades to protect the teachers union and bad teachers in the state. In that sort of environment, the students are obviously going to be on be the losing end.

For those parents that can afford private schools or that win the lottery for enrollment in the few charter schools that are allowed to exist in the city, that is their only real option to save their children from a dismal future due to poor education. Home schooling is a luxury option only the very well off and well educated that can entertain that option due to the high cost of living in a state long controlled and governed by Democrats.

Of course the option of moving to a lower cost, better run red state exists, but many New Yorkers tend to take their “progressive views” with them and that would be bad news for wherever they move to. The same holds true of any red state receiving a massive influx of new residents coming from most Democrat run states. People tend to try and recreate the environment they were used to in their old state, which means they tend to advocate for progressive policies and tend to vote for Democrats who promise to deliver them.

Kim
Kim
1 year ago

Where in the world did anyone get the notion that teachers should NOT be well-educated or able to pass a test that’s given to all teachers?! Those teachers who repeatedly failed the test should have been told to look for employment elsewhere.

But what am I thinking? Lousy teachers (I think they prefer the word “educators”, but that’s a misnomer) and even those with criminal behaviors committed in schools are stuck in rubber rooms, as PaulE noted, and allowed to collect their salaries and benefits…all paid for by you, the taxpayer. This is what unions do for their members–protect them no matter the offense, and on your dime.

This is the problem when people are tucked inside little boxes–boxes that have only one criterion…the color of their skin. If we are to become a truly colorblind society, we need to disregard skin color and ethnicity. But dems love to identify you by color, so they are the ones perpetuating discrimination. They’re hypocrites, saying they want to “unite the country” while, at the same time, continually preventing that from happening because of their divisive policies and ideology.

We should be setting higher standards for ourselves so we can at least keep up with 30 or 40 other nations of the world that do a better job educating their children.

Michael J
Michael J
1 year ago

Dumbing down America extends to those entrusted to educate future generations? Calling themselves teachers doesn’t make it so, well until now.

TOMASD
TOMASD
1 year ago

So some minority “teachers’ couldn’t pass the test but the white teachers could. That “must” mean it was a biased test. It couldn’t mean that the white teachers were just smarter, right?? This is a perfect example of why NYC schools are falling apart. You are allowing teachers that couldn’t cut it to be rewarded for not studying more and stepping up their scores. Kids are pushed through the system and teachers are being pushed through the system. What does that give you?? A broken system and the failing kids are the proof to that. I went to NYC schools and back then we either passed the work or we we were left back and had to repeat the grade. Now, they simply push just about every student through the system. NYC is a train wreck in which 10% have been doing 90% and now it looks like 5% are doing 95%. You want to know why good, intelligent people are leaving NY? This is a perfect example. Stop enabling poor performers simply because they sue. It’s disgusting, just like NYC currently.

granky
granky
1 year ago

Common Core lowered standards for students so this just follows that lead, just as well lower standards for teachers. Liberal idiocy, lowering standards helps no one, but it harms everyone.

legally present
legally present
1 year ago

Not to fear about a drop in students New York City, they are sending busses full of illegal aliens to your city for their “free” to them educations. 35,000/student??? That’s obscene, especially when they are FAILING!!

Morbious
Morbious
1 year ago

Someone please tell how these geniuses failed the test multiple times. Wouldn’t it have made sense to just learn the stuff you didnt know the first time?

Boz
Boz
1 year ago

More wealth transfer, bribes, payoffs, buying votes, etc.

Stephen Russell
Stephen Russell
1 year ago

Screw the damn Unions Help the students more

Robert Belcastro
Robert Belcastro
1 year ago

There is no substitute for teaching students the basics – math, science, grammar, etc.

MariaRose
MariaRose
1 year ago

As someone who passed that test I don’t see why someone feels that being checked for a level of skill is discriminatory. You either have the skills or you learn the skills. Most of the questions are basic knowledge that if you have a well rounded exposure to knowledge would know. And there are courses ( books) that you can find that will help you achieve the level needed. No one should be spoon feed the ability—if you are the type of person who needs special testing accommodations they are available. No wonder our students are doing so poorly because their teachers don’t know how to teach the students how to learn.

Joe
Joe
1 year ago

I am just thankful I don’t live in New York!

jocko
jocko
1 year ago

OH, BOY, MORE FREE $$$$$ FOR THE CHUMPS

Barrett Smith
Barrett Smith
1 year ago

As a public-school teacher of 35 years (now retired) I will shell out hard earned money to enroll my grandchildren in private school. I no longer have faith in the public school system.

N
N
1 year ago

50 years ago we invited them out to the parking lot to settle a problem.

MagaDeploable
MagaDeploable
1 year ago

Who is shocked that those with inferior intelligence can’t pass tests

Peter addis
Peter addis
1 year ago

A great way to dumb down the whole nation!

MagaDeplorable
MagaDeplorable
1 year ago

There is nothing worse then union slugs who are over paid despite doing a lousy job

Larry W
Larry W
1 year ago

When I took tests and other people did better than I did, I thought it was because they were smarter than me. Thanks to the liberals I now realize that what really happened was that they discriminated against me. LOL

Pat
Pat
1 year ago

I would ‘bet’ there were teachers of other ethnicities who did not pass the test and were denied the job.

Pat
Pat
1 year ago

It MATTERS that teachers should have to pass a test. How can they teach students something they themselves do not know/understand? THEY CAN’T!
The results would be “students failing” the tests they are required to take.

Robin Boyd
Robin Boyd
1 year ago

In essence, this suit is claiming that Black and Hispanic teachers are not as intelligent and capable of teaching as White teachers are, despite the fact that over half of the minority teachers also passed the tests. This is pure racism!

Deb Rockwell
Deb Rockwell
1 year ago

It’s ridiculous. Everything is now “racist.” What’s next? Toilet paper? Simply because it’s only available in white? I’ve had it. I can’t even listen to the nonsense any longer.

anna hubert
anna hubert
1 year ago

Is it any wonder that graduating students are academically on grade 5 level if that the oist hurt are blacks and latinos whatever that means

H L Howell
H L Howell
1 year ago

New York should be quarantined so that the stupid virus does not leak out and make us all stupid!

Robert Dapper
Robert Dapper
1 year ago

May they eat themselves slowly. Another racist Marxist decision. We’re you to ask the students of these “teachers”, where the money comes from for such setlements. ,you’d get a collective “Wha?” . Good job New Yorkers. Your reaping what you’ve sown.

Darrel
Darrel
1 year ago

To bring suit to point out the legitimacy of a test is one thing but to claim it is biased because you are too irresponsible to prepare yourself is quite another issue. And that is what Americans of today demonstrate way to much of, irresponsibility.

Tim Toroian
Tim Toroian
1 year ago

Tests are to see who or what is capable, it is not the fault of the test if simpletons can’t pass it. If they aren’t insulted I failed. And if they aren’t my point would be proved. I say that because of the people online who do not comprehend sarcasm or hyperbole.

Janice Valverde
Janice Valverde
1 year ago

It sounds like the author believes that white teachers should continue to ve the teachers in the majority although the public school population is mostly kids of color. This is not conducive to success in school for those kids. New research from several universities, including Johns Hopkins, shows that Black and Browm kids are more likely to get higher grades, e roll in advanced courses and attend college if they have had even one Black teacher in elementary school.

There is a cultural gap between kids of color and white women teachers. Imagine white kids having 77% of their teachers being Black. There may be no ill intent, but they don’t see teachers as role modelscunless they can relate to them culturally.

We just need more teachers of color in our large urban school districts where over 60% of the kids are kids of color now.

The problem is not whether teachers pass a culturally biased test. Not really. The problem is that the test, the teaching force, the school culture, the administrations, the textbooks, and everything we offer kids in these big city public schools is out of sync with their racial and ethnic identities.

Michael Lewis
Michael Lewis
1 year ago

 It seems the skills that are needed to succeed are how to setup and scam the government for a fat, life changing settlement payment! This is what we are teaching our children.

James C Rutledge
James C Rutledge
1 year ago

Was this case settled out of court, or by another left leaning bureaucrat? It looks like another case of bypassing our system of justice to give taxpayers’ money to gain votes. And, BTW, anyone who can’t or won’t pass this simple test should not be teaching anyone and anyone who thinks they should be if that person is a “person of color,” is a racist.

Hal
Hal
1 year ago

It is as common as a “rooster crowing at sunup” for minorities to use the “racist” complaint to try to explain why he/she didn’t pass the test.

BAE
BAE
1 year ago

The teachers didn’t show up to work, because they didn’t want to show up to WORK. They do NOT care about the children. They should find a different vocation.

Lisa
Lisa
1 year ago

They didn’t pass after so many times because they are stupid!

ezed2109
ezed2109
1 year ago

Why is the answer always lower the bar for quality and standards? Black or white should not matter; if the teacher cannot demonstrate educational proficiency and pass the tests the solution should be to improve the performance of the teacher. I have no problem with failing, getting more educational training to raise their skills and knowledge and then being allowed to retest.
There also needs to be alignment between the testing and the teacher’s subject.
For example, I would see more of legitimate argument of unfair testing if the same test being given to a science teacher and an art teacher. Tests should be in-sync with the merit and needed skills of a person versus race.
Still somebody should be able to question why we should keep any person who fails the tests 10 times. Maybe they are just not capable and it is clear they do not have what it takes to teach.

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