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City public schools have lost more than 2,500 teachers over the past five years — with the least experienced teachers being the most likely to leave the job, the city’s Independent Budget Office found.
Between the 2018-2019 school year and the 2022-2023 school year, the city schools lost 2,581 teachers, with the largest losses occurring the last school year. As of the last school year, there were 75,654 teachers working in the city public school system, according to the analysis.
The IBO noted that, despite the onset of the Covid pandemic, few teachers had left their jobs by the fall of 2020 “perhaps due to the increased flexibility for remote instruction during the hybrid schooling year.” But the IBO found that there was a larger reduction in the teacher headcount, by about 2,000, during the 2022-2023 school year.
For the last two years, the retention rate has stood at about 88 percent, compared to 91 percent in the 2016-2017 school year. The report also noted that nearly a quarter of the educators who left the job had been teaching for less than five years, while another quarter had been teaching for between five and 10 years.
Because less experienced teachers were more likely to leave, that meant that the average number of years on the job has increased for city teachers.
“Partly because of this, New York City Public School students now have more experienced
teachers on average — between 2015-2016 and 2022-2023, the median experience level of a general education teacher rose from 11.2 to 13.1 years,” the report found.
Notably, the number of special-education teachers has risen in recent years. While 28.7 percent of teachers were special-ed teachers in the 2015-2016 academic year, now that number has gone up to 34.4 percent. This was explained by the fact that the number of students with disabilities has grown by 2.1 percent, while the number of general-education students has dropped by more than 6 percent.
Class-size mandate in play
Earlier this month, United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew highlighted shortages among special-education, bilingual, science and math teachers. The governor signed legislation that aims to help school districts across the state hire and retain teachers, as part of efforts to address a looming teacher shortage: the state projected that it will need an additional 180,000 teachers over the next decade.
However, the decrease in teaching staff has not been as significant as the drop in student enrollment, the IBO found. Although the number of teachers working in city schools has dipped 3 percent, the number of students attending public schools has dropped by more than 10 percent. There were 1,047,895 students in the 2022-2023 school year, down from more than 1.1 million prior to the pandemic.
The report noted that, although hiring stopped during the height of the pandemic, hiring of teachers has since rebounded but has not been able to offset attrition.
The IBO was hopeful that gains made in the UFT contract could help attract and retain teachers. For the first time ever, the pact reached in June includes annual retention bonuses. Starting next year, teachers will earn a $400 retention payment, which increases to $700 in 2025 and to $1,000 in 2026 and each year after.
The report also noted that a state law that will require the city public school system to reduce class sizes will oblige the DOE to hire 17,700 teachers over the next few years (although about 7,500 of these were vacant positions already budgeted).
But looming budget cuts could hamper the school system’s ability to hire new teachers, the report warned. Earlier this month, Mayor Eric Adams announced a “Program to Eliminate the Gap,” or PEG, in which city agencies, including the Department of Education, must reduce spending by 5 percent as part of the November budget plan. Agencies must slash another 5 percent as part of January’s preliminary budget and an additional 5 percent in April’s executive budget.
IBO stated that its analysis will “provide important context as the DOE embarks on fulfilling the mandates of the class size reduction bill beginning this fall, managing the proposed budget cuts, and perhaps dealing with a limited ability to hire additional teachers.”
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