Layoffs for Some, Big Payouts for Others in New York School District

Yesterday we wrote about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s attempts to end the practice of paying bonuses to public sector employees, just for not calling in sick to work.

Across the Hudson River, a New York school district is also suffering the side effects of its unused sick leave payouts. reports that employees of Yonkers Public Schools can get paid for 300 days of unused sick and vacation time, a policy that allowed one district employee to receive a $92,325 payout in 2010.

The story was a big embarrassment for the cash-strapped district last summer, when it announced that 187 employees were being laid off, in addition to the 250 who were retiring. The district ended up cutting $41 million from its budget, laying off 90 teachers and cutting advanced placement classes and electives such as drama, music, cooking and industrial arts, according to the New York Times.

It’s clear that Yonkers schools’ expensive union perks ended up hurting students’ overall education.

Still, the financial shenanigans aren’t finished.

A new report from city Inspector General Dan Schorr finds that some Yonkers teachers have been exceeding the district’s $15,000 cap on overtime earnings, mainly because the district’s overtime policy does not jibe with its teachers’ contract.

For instance, the $15,000 cap does not apply to earnings from athletic coaching or summer work.

According to the inspector general’s report, at least one school employee – “Teacher A” – earned $31,730 in overtime pay in 2008, in part by getting paid $97 per hour to teach summer school, almost twice the $49.87 hourly rate stipulated in the teachers’ contract.

Superintendent Bernard Pierorazio explained that the district is contractually obligated to pay unionized teachers 1/200th of their salary for working a non-school day, and summer school occurs outside a teacher’s normal 10-month work year. reports the “investigation comes in response to anonymous complaints from people claiming to be laid-off teachers, alleging that their still-employed colleagues are taking advantage of the system in tough times.”

Yonkers Public Schools lays off teachers based on seniority. That means some of the district’s most senior teachers are cleaning up while their young, less-senior colleagues are getting laid off.