New York City’s “rubber rooms” for teachers accused of misconduct or incompetence will close, reports the New York Times. In a deal with the teachers’ union, the Education Department will file charges more quickly and hire more arbitrators to speed the hearing process; teachers waiting for a hearing will do administrative or clerical work in the schools while their cases are pending. “Cases that lasted several years could now be completed in months,” predicts the Times.
Although the city has invested about $2 million in hiring more lawyers to help principals get rid of teachers, it has managed to fire only three for incompetence in the last two years.
The average “rubber room” teacher spends three years doing nothing at full pay waiting for a hearing, the New Yorker reported last year.
It’s a June morning, and there are fifteen people in the room, four of them fast asleep, their heads lying on a card table. Three are playing a board game. Most of the others stand around chatting. Two are arguing over one of the folding chairs.
. . . These fifteen teachers, along with about six hundred others, in six larger Rubber Rooms in the city’s five boroughs, have been accused of misconduct, such as hitting or molesting a student, or, in some cases, of incompetence, in a system that rarely calls anyone incompetent.
. . . Watched over by two private security guards and two city Department of Education supervisors, they punch a time clock for the same hours that they would have kept at school—typically, eight-fifteen to three-fifteen. Like all teachers, they have the summer off. The city’s contract with their union, the United Federation of Teachers, requires that charges against them be heard by an arbitrator, and until the charges are resolved—the process is often endless—they will continue to draw their salaries and accrue pensions and other benefits.
About 550 teachers now wait in rubber rooms. Those cases will be cleared by the end of the year, the city pledges.