NEW YORK – New York City’s infamous rubber rooms – the paid purgatory for bad teachers school officials can’t fire – continue to drain millions from the city each year, despite the teachers union’s promises to help fix the situation.
The city’s contract with the United Federation of Teachers union, like most teachers contracts, requires district officials to navigate a lengthy labyrinth of due process when they want to fire a teacher, and it often leads to sympathetic arbitrators who routinely reinstate dangerous educators.
That’s bad enough. Even worse is the fact that it frequently takes months or years to bring some of the cases before an arbitrator, and in the meantime the teachers sit in “rubber rooms” every day, doing nothing and drawing full salaries and benefits.
The UFT promised to work with city officials in 2008 to reform the process but nothing changed. In 2010, when the union agreed to increase the number of arbitrators to expedite the termination process, there were about 20 arbitrators and the city was spending roughly $30 million a year on salaries for rubber room teachers, a recent New York Daily News editorial noted.
Today, there are only 19 arbitrators and the problem is still costing taxpayers about $29 million, according to the Daily News.
In other words, more union promises and no real change.
The Daily News provides several examples of the educators the city pays to sit and do nothing:
“ … Shenequa Duke, a Bronx special education teacher, collects pay even though she used a broom to hit a student who arrived late. A hearing officer suspended her for 45 days.”
“ … Stefan Hudson, a former dean who grabbed, shook and slammed a student into the table, is still collecting pay. He got off with a $10,000 fine and orders to attend an anger management seminar.”
“ … Edgar Ortiz, a Bronx public school teacher who patronized a prostitute – and then failed to inform his superiors of the arrest as required – escaped with a $7,500 fine.”
The Daily News explains that in 2010, when the union last promised to fix the broken system, city and union officials increased the number of arbitrators to about 39 and began to make progress on resolving cases. But the number or arbitrators eventually dwindled to 19 and the UFT, which has veto power over hiring arbitrators under the current agreement, has refused to approve new hires, according to the Daily News editorial.
It seems obvious the UFT’s tactic is to slow and delay the arbitration process. Every teacher on the district’s payroll – whether they’re in the classroom or the rubber room – pays dues to the UFT. Terminating bad teachers may be a great thing for students and taxpayers, but it’s bad for union business.
The Daily News sums up the situation perfectly:
“In the city public schools, … firing offenses are license to paid vacation.
“(An) Expert at pointing fingers everywhere but in the mirror, (UFT President Michael) Mulgrew blames the city. The union wrongly says the administration – which is attempting to fire these misfits – has substantial control over the arbitration process. And it faults the city for failing to take arbitrators’ rulings to court, when that is beside the point.
“What brass. It’s the union, with the help of allies in (the state legislature), that stacked the arbitration process against the city from the get go and now, clearly, is delaying in hope of more favorable treatment from a new mayor.”
Unfortunately the UFT’s chosen mayoral candidate – Democrat Bill de Blasio – is leading in the polls. The future looks bright for the teachers union in New York, and the abusive teachers it coddles, but not so good for the students and taxpayers who deserve so much better.
By Victor Skinner at EAGnews.org