NYCTC Stipend Woes

Money isn’t everything, but it’s still kind of important.

I want to preface this post by noting that I am quite proud to be a member of the NYC Teaching Collaborative, and I recommend the Collaborative and the Collaborative’s sister program (Teaching Fellows) to friends and colleagues for whom I think these alternate certification programs are a viable pathway to classroom teaching. That being said, it’s not a complete surprise that a program operating at this scale across schools in New York City might have an occasional snag along the way.

When I accepted my offer to join the NYC Teaching Collaborative, one thing that the program made very clear was we should prepare for an incredibly frugal financial situation until we begin our full-time teaching jobs in September 2022. Our base program stipend is $1000 per month, and anyone that lives in the Big Apple knows that $1,000 doesn’t go far at all. Based on a limited sample size, I’d hazard a guess that the majority of my fellow cohort members and I are only able to make the finances work out by being able to live with our families for the duration of the program.

No matter what our circumstances are, it goes without saying that each of my cohort members and I are stretching every dollar as far as we can go. Prior to joining the Collaborative, I worked for the DOE as a substitute teacher. I was able to put enough of a savings fund aside for the duration of the Collaborative program so that I was able to supplement my program stipend so that it was similar (but not quite the same) as my full-time subbing income.

Let’s take a look at the stipend that partner teachers make during pre-service training (January – June):

Not included in the projected stipend was a $500 technology fee that we had the opportunity to express interest in. The purpose of this stipend was to offset the cost of obtaining a laptop, paying for wifi, etc. since the skill building sessions for the program were set to be facilitated online as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. The messaging around this stipend wasn’t particularly clear, as communication from the program went from “complete this form if you want the stipend” to “we’ll let you know if you received it.”

The hiccup with the stipend was that it didn’t come as expected. In fact, no one really knew when to expect the stipend at first, and we even lost at least one (possibly a few more) cohort members who had to leave the program since they did not receive their initial stipend.

It’s perfectly reasonable that we didn’t receive the January stipend by the end of the month. Afterall, “real” jobs typically lag about 2 weeks from days worked to payday for workers on a biweekly pay cycle. The snafu, however, was that we were completely in the dark about when to expect the stipends to arrive. To further complicate things, there is no way for Partner Teachers to enroll in Direct Deposit (why this is the case eludes me, as the checks I get from the Collaborative are identical to those I received for substitute teaching and per session). Eventually, we received this anticipated calendar for stipend disbursement:

I want to emphasize that this isn’t at all an unreasonable timeline. It was a bit disheartening that we were several weeks into preservice training before stipend logistics were clarified. The above table was shared in an email from the program dated January 28th, 2022, but it would have been nice to have that finalized in the preservice training guide that we received in late November or early December.

No one goes into teaching for the money, but it still makes me sad hearing through the grapevine that we lost at least one cohort member due to largely financial reasons. While I am no financial or payroll guru, I can’t help but wonder if there are any ways that this process can be improved for future cohorts.

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