700 NY Teachers Paid $70,000+ to Sit in “Rubber Rooms”

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Yahoo News reports on a series of “rubber rooms” in New York, where schoolteachers awaiting disciplinary action get paid $70,000 or more to sit around and wait. Stranger than fiction:

Hundreds of New York City public school teachers accused of offenses ranging from insubordination to sexual misconduct are being paid their full salaries to sit around all day playing Scrabble, surfing the Internet or just staring at the wall, if that’s what they want to do.

Because their union contract makes it extremely difficult to fire them, the teachers have been banished by the school system to its “rubber rooms” — off-campus office space where they wait months, even years, for their disciplinary hearings.

The 700 or so teachers can practice yoga, work on their novels, paint portraits of their colleagues — pretty much anything but school work. They have summer vacation just like their classroom colleagues and enjoy weekends and holidays through the school year.

“You just basically sit there for eight hours,” said Orlando Ramos, who spent seven months in a rubber room, officially known as a temporary reassignment center, in 2004-05. “I saw several near-fights. `This is my seat.’ `I’ve been sitting here for six months.’ That sort of thing.”

More.

The teachers continue to earn their salaries while they wait, costing taxpayers an estimated $65 million per year, according to the article. Union rules require that the teachers “continue their jobs in some fashion while their cases are being heard.” Their contracts forbid them from getting other work, the AP writes.

Instead, many de facto imprisoned teachers do yoga, drink, write novels, plan holidays, and otherwise entertain themselves as best they can. Some have been inside for three years. Detention-for-teachers programs exist across the country, but they are by far worst in New York.

Incredible.

  • This type of thing makes me sick. At one time unions were a great leverage tool that stood against discrimination and unfair treatment. But nowadays, they are a big waste of money for the company that has to pay higher wages because of collective bargaining and can’t get rid of the less useful employees. It is also a waste of money to the employees who fund large amounts of people to fight for them. Part of the reason many companies can’t compete is because of ridiculous Unions’ backing.

  • John

    It’s rather ridiculous that the teachers are prevented from conducting other work for the district while their cases bear out. At least they should be able to shuffle paperwork or something. The ones writing novels, etc. are even effectively being paid to work a second job even though they are ostensibly sequestered to prevent that.

  • There is a This American Life devoted to teachers who are or who have been subjected to this atrocity. It is very entertaining and disturbing all at the same time. It is amazing that this much attention has been devoted to it and the problem still persists.

    Apparently, there are teachers who have found themselves in this vocational purgatory for reasons that are beyond them and no one will give them a straight answer as to why they have been placed on paid leave. If they hope to ever get their job back, they have to play the waiting game.

    This practice is wasteful for all involved. New York, you can do better.

  • Greg Ransom

    Los Angeles has the same thing.

    Many teachers who have been molesting children, teaching while drunk etc. have been getting a full pay check for going on 8 or 9 years.