Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Online Backpay Calculator for NYC Teachers

UPDATE 9/26/2015!!

I strongly suggest you read the full directions at the very bottom of this blog. They walk you through logging onto payroll portal to get precise figures on what you actually earned. This, however, is so simple to use you can still follow the steps and use some best guesses.

1. What did you earn between Nov. 1, 2009 and today? Enter it in the top space of the calculator.
2. What did you earn between Nov. 1, 2010 and today? Enter that in the bottom space of the calculator.
3. Click "Send"
4. See that number that came up? Multiply it by .125 (12 and a half percent) and that's what you'll get before taxes on 10/15/15.

You should comment now and say thanks. It's only polite.

Oh, btw....
This has been in testing for over a year now. It's accurate. Any inaccuracies are attributable solely to:
1.  Your own inaccurate figure for what you actually made (I told you to follow the instructions below). 
2. Something having to do with the formula that Unity leadership agreed upon but hasn't shared. 

Here's the original post from 2/14/2014)

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Online calculators are about as reliable as the weather forecast. They make certain assumptions that may or may not come to pass. This online calculator is no different. I made the following assumptions as I put it together:

  • It assumes that we will agree to a 4% and 4% raise for 2009-10 and 2010-11 respectively.
  • It fairly assumes we will be paid for those raises retroactive to the expiration of the last contract
  • It assumes that the .58% reduction discussed in this blog post will not come from this amount. 
  • It assumes that we will not be receiving retroactive pay for the contract years of '11-'12, '12-'13, and '13-present. (It assumes zero retroactive pay for that period).
  • It does not include any after school. or per session activities that you may have worked during this time (all money that came from a separate check is NOT included in this calculator) 
  • But it does assume that the per session amount will follow lockstep with the base salary amount (that's a fancy way of saying any coverages, etc. that you did and showed up in your regular check would be part of the 4% and 4% raise. It probably won't happen exactly that way, but it will probably happen somewhere close to it. Close enough to estimate anyway). 
  • It assumes the first 4% becomes effectives on 11/1/2009
  • It assumes the second 4% raise becomes effective on 11/1/2010
So here's your disclaimer: None or all of these assumptions may come to pass. This calculator is only based on the assumptions listed above.

The Math

The way I have calculated the two 4% raises is fairly straight forward. I calculate that on November 1, 2009, you should have received a raise of 4%. That means that between that date and today, your pay should have been augmented by 4%. On (or about) November 1, 2010, I calculate that you should have received another raise of 4%. That means that between that day and today, your pay should have been augmented by 8%. Since it wasn't, the amount of money that is owed to you is what I'm calling backpay or retroactive pay. The calculator will perform the following functions:

  • (Your total salary from 11/1/2009 to today) * 4% plus
  • (Your total salary from 11/1/2010 to today) * 4.16% (compounded)*
Adding these two numbers, which is what the Backpay Calculator does, reflects what you are owed from the '09-'11 contract period.

Therefore, the amount you enter in the first field will be multiplied by .04. The amount that you enter in the second field will be multiplied by .0416. Once you hit enter you'll see the sum of both of those products.*

What you need to get started

 All you need in order to use this with some accuracy is:
  1. Your Annual Gross Earnings from the periods of 11/1/2009 and today 
  2. Your Annual Gross Earnings and 11/1/2010 and today.  
It would be better if you use accurate numbers. Try to avoid using your W2s from those years. That will give you inflated numbers. Instead, use the NYCDOE's Payroll Portal. The Payroll Portal has a tool called the 'Total Earning/Deductions" tool. Use the screenshots below if you need help finding and using this tool from the Portal (and click here to go to the payroll portal).

My beliefs

I do not believe that this is the backpay I or you and I will receive. It is only my belief that this is the amount of money that is owed to us.

It is also my belief that individual teachers should have some understanding of exactly what is owed to them from this failure to settle four years' worth of teacher contracts. For me, a well-informed membership, even with something like this, is much more preferable than an ill-informed membership. My belief is to get as much information out to as many members as possible.


I would like this to be as accurate as possible under the circumstances. If you think any part of the assumptions or the math that went into the calculator is wrong, feel free to let me know. It won't be hard for me to make changes to this calculator. Also, if you would like create a version based on your own assumptions, feel free to reach out to me. I don't at all mind helping you calculate retro based on your own assumptions or math skills.

UPDATE* Many thanks to  from Twitter, who pointed out that the second raise would equate to a compounded 8.16% instead of the 8% I had originally figured.
UPDATE* Thanks the commenter below for pointing out an earlier mistake. To say I'm no math guy is usually a blessing

(2/21/14) : Appreciating link backs and differing perspectives on the word optimists, this calculator is anything but optimistic. It takes only the first two years of raises we did are owed but did not receive into consideration and ignores the last three years of raises that are owed to us. It also ignores a full four years worth of per session raises for after school activities (which will come to us in a separate retro check). If anything, the numbers you come up with probably represent the least likely amount you are owed. My advice? Be angry if you don't get it.

We hear a lot in the newspapers and on TV about how much settling our contract, including our full retroactive pay, will cost the government of the City of New York. The newspapers all say that the '$3.2 billion' that is 'on the line' will cost the government way too much.

It is interesting to note that as we're hearing this, we are not hearing how much this potential backpay can bring us as individuals. The sad irony here is that as the whole city talks about backpay for teachers, we ourselves are fairly in the dark as to how much is on the line for us.

I'd like to to see that change. That's why I asked a few bloggers and union activists to help me create this online backpay calculator. It's intended to help you get a grasp of how much is on the line for you from any future contract agreement.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Many Teachers Have No Stake Fighting For Retroactive Pay

Michael Mulgrew was on the Brian Lehrer Show yesterday and the topic of retroactive pay came up. According to this piece, Mulgrew admitted that backpay was a 'big issue' for New York City teachers.

The Schoolbook piece went on to feature the thoughts of "Nate" -a teacher who called in to say that retroactive pay was not as big of a deal for him as the reduction in paperwork and the ability to loosen the grip of the work rules. Nate's thoughts were a significant part of the rest of the post.

A commenter (I love comment sections) named "Allan" made a point which I found very interesting:

I'm curious as to whethewr those teachers who would forego retro would be eligible for it. After all, you have to have been working since 2009 to be entitled to full back pay.

The point Allan makes is well worth thinking over. Conventional wisdom states that over half of new New York City teachers quit within the first five years. It also states that senior teachers are retiring just as soon as they are able. If that's true, then it stands to reason a great many of our colleagues, being newer that we, don't have a direct financial interest in any fight for retroactive pay as we do.

To a new teacher, any amount of backpay may seem "paltry" (a commenter's use of the word. Not mine) in exchange for less demanding work rules. This is because for them, a check with retro pay would be exactly that -paltry. It's easy to give up next to nothing in exchange for something that matters to you.

I don't blame younger teachers for thinking this way. If you were a less senior teacher, which would be more attractive to you: a reduction in the insane amount of paperwork you have to do? Or an extra check for $1,500? If I were a young teacher, I'd pick the reduction in paperwork.

Of course, I'm not. I'm a more senior teacher. I have a house and a family and I'm living the dream and the lack of those raises has taken it's toll on my wardrobe, personal life and my debt to earnings ratio. Whatsmore, I stand to gain over $30,000 in back pay if the city stays within 1) the bargaining pattern for '09-'11 and 2) their own recent pattern of coughing up the money it owes for retroactive pay (and that's just for the '09-'11 contract alone). For someone like me, hearing 'eh screw the retro pay. Let's focus on work rules' is like nails drawing across a chalkboard (I can literally see the dollars fly out of my bank account).

And that's just it. There is a real deep divide among teachers over this issue. Older teachers have a large financial stake in fighting for retropay. Younger teachers do not. They simply don't have as much money to gain from retro.  That's probably why many are willing to give it up as a bargaining chip during negotiations (ah, the Gawker Generation: They sure do know how to play negotiator with our money. Don't they? ;) ).

Thing is, there are a lot more younger teachers in our union than used to be.

Written by,
Ed (who, despite managing his finances well, racked up $20,000 in debt during the recession when he normally wouldn't have ... and sure would like to pay off the credit cards).

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Why I'm Glad Schools Are Open During the Storm

Well, they have done it again. Despite forecasts calling for 8-12 inches of snow -from a powerful Nor'Easter- the New York City Schools are open today.

The  announcement caused some anger from teachers through social media which included an accusation that the administration was putting teachers, parents and students in harm's way by 'making' them travel during a storm.

I've traveled to work from my suburban home during every snowstorm so far. I've seen accidents I  never thought I would see and have experienced commutes that were longer than a Bollywood trilogy. And boy oh boy have I come to the limitations of my four wheel drive vehicle. So I know exactly what these folks are talking about when they talk about dangerous commutes during a storm.

Having said that, I'm glad they opened schools today. I believe Chancellor Fariña when she says that school is the only place where some children can get a hot meal. I also believe her when she asserts that parents, who still have to get to work today, don't needed their schedules placed in further upheaval by having to find a sitter at the last minute.

I would also like to add that with 46% of New Yorkers living in poverty, and many more living in the ranks of the working poor, missing one day of work because schools are closed and no sitter can be found, equates to missing one day's worth of pay. For many parents and families, that one day makes the difference between paying the rent or not.

Most importantly; the 'Great Winter of 2014', with its many snowstorms and frigid temperatures, has created an enormous amount of upheaval for the entire metropolitan area. Upheaval is the enemy of a good education and schools represent a type of consistency in children's lives that helps to negate that. Everyone (children and adults alike) need consistency during times like these. If for no other reason, schools should be open as a towering symbol reminding us all that this is New York and life here doesn't stop because of a few inches of snow (even of it is a few inches twice a week that then freezes and becomes these ice mountains that ruin shoes as well as snow shovels).

And for all those folks out there, who cry -cry!- about the roads being dangerous and children being placed at risk because schools were kept open, let me remind you that you don't have to go in. With schools open, parents can choose to keep their children home if they want and teachers, as well as most school staff, can take a full paid day off if they choose. I myself am not going in today because I simply can't do another seven hour commute. But I realize that that's my choice and I'm not going to whine and complain because the day has to come out of my CAR. No one is forcing anyone to go to travel to work or school during a storm.

But school during a storm is now an option for many families who might need that option available to them. And that's important -well worth the day in my CAR.

14 years and 42 miles to my classroom; my two cents.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Delay on Common Core Testing? Not For HS Teachers

No big commentary this week. Just a quick parsing of some of the headlines.

News this week that Sheldon Silver, who leads the NYS Assembly, and  Dean Skelos, who leads the NYS Senate, were announcing their support of a delay to use Common Core tests on teacher evaluations led many of my friends and colleagues to be giving high fives to each other.  I have personally been predicting a moratorium on the testing portions of the New York City (via NYS) evaluation system for a very long time now, so I have to admit when I first heard it I was happy too, although not very surprised.

But then I took a careful read of Al Baker's NYTimes piece of the story. This passage jumped right out at me and gave me a few moments of pause
"The lawmakers said no tests linked to the Common Core should be used in decisions regarding teachers for at least two years. The change, if made, would affect about 18 percent of teachers — those responsible for teaching math and English in the fourth through eighth grades."
Now The Times actually has part of this wrong. The (old) information they have says that teachers of grades 4- 8 , ELA and Math comprise 18% of the city's teaching force. That is correct. However, it sounds like the editors made the assumption that those were the only teachers who had Common Core state tests this year. That's not correct and the people at the Times should do more homework before they publish. The Common Core exams are now grades 3-8 and high school ELA and Math teachers are working off of a CCSS exam this year as well. In addition to that, every elementary school teacher this year is set to receive some type of score from a state exam (some of these will count as local measures and some will count as state measures). So the number Baker asserts is way too low. The change will in fact effect a great majority of NYC public school teachers.

But he does make a great point! Silver's call for a delay will not include every teacher who teaches to a test or who is evaluated along a test. Some teachers will be let off the hook from a 'Common Core' delay and some will not. Because of this, the suggestion from the Senate and Assembly will create a fairly messy situation for all 694 school districts across the state because some teachers' evaluation will be based on test scores and others will not.

So who doesn't a delay like this cover? Who will still be on the hook to be evaluated along these lines? The following groups of teachers all teach to an exam that is a standardized assessment and is not a new, Common Core exam. For these teachers, there has been no call to separate test scores from teacher evaluations.

  • Middle School Science Teachers
  • High School Science Teacher
  • High School Social Studies Teachers
  • High School ESL Teachers 
  • High School Foreign Language Teachers

So, while a great many teachers will benefit from the delay in using Common Core testing, some middle school teachers, and virtually all high school teachers, will still be scheduled to have their "STATE" 20% measured from flawed, faulty standardized exams. 

For instance, I teach Global History -the exam with the lowest results across the entire city. The August exam for that subject had students read primary source documents about the economic development of Botswana, among other nations, and then generate a 5 -6  paragraph essay describing a change that resulted from it. If I am not able to teach my decile 2 students the skills needed to digest and understand a document and topic like that, my job will still be taken from me. 

So a close read of the details leads me to one sad conclusion: The escape hatch offered by Mr. Silver et al. does not effect me. 

But I am happy for the other teachers!