Long Island school administrators are allowing teachers to take professional development courses such as yoga, stress management and “The Science and Romance of Wine” for credits that count toward thousands of dollars in raises — over and above the annual increases they already receive, a Newsday investigation has found.
Professional development pay hikes are set in district labor contracts negotiated with New York’s influential teachers union, and they add millions to the cost of teacher compensation each year. Supporters say it’s worth the investment of taxpayer dollars because the classes make teachers better and give them knowledge they can pass on to their students.
But district course records show that hundreds of classes lack academic rigor, do little to improve student learning, or only help a teacher prepare for a higher-paying job in school administration.
Records show that an Islip music teacher took “Prayer” from Oral Roberts University, and a Middle Country English teacher took fencing. Teachers in Great Neck got credit for workshops at the Statue of Liberty and the Bronx Zoo.
Newsday observed classes where teachers colored with crayons, made flip books out of construction paper, and discussed Australian cheeses. Book clubs, trips overseas and volleyball basics have all led to raises.
Little known to the public, these salary hikes are paid even when annual raises are otherwise limited or frozen. And because most district labor contracts don’t cap the number of courses someone can take per year, employees have used the system to add thousands to their pay quickly.
“That’s the gift that keeps on giving because those increases get factored into your salary and into your final salary, which increases your pension,” said retired Brentwood Superintendent Mike Cohen.
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