Beth Fertig is WNYC’s Contributing Editor for Education. She previously covered politics, which included City Hall during the Giuliani administration, and the U.S. Senate campaigns of Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton. She also covered transportation and infrastructure.
NYC to Close "Rubber Rooms"
Thursday, April 15, 2010
New York, NY –
The city and the teachers' union have announced an agreement to end the temporary reassignment centers for suspended teachers known as rubber rooms.
Under the new agreement most teachers accused of misconduct or incompetence will be assigned to perform administrative work in Department of Education offices while their cases are resolved.
Currently, teachers are sent to six rubber rooms, where they are paid their full salaries during the course of the investigations but do no work. About 550 teachers are currently in rubber rooms at an annual cost of more than $30 million a year.
"The rubber rooms were the result of a broken and protected teacher discipline process,” Chancellor Joel Klein says. “This deal goes a long way to improving the way the union and the department deal with teachers accused of and charged with wrongdoings."
The new agreement will take effect in September. In addition to moving teachers out of rubber rooms, the union and the city have agreed to speed up the hearing process. Suspended teachers currently spend 18 months, on average, in rubber rooms.
Under the new process, when a teacher is removed from a classroom, the Department of Education will have 10 days to file incompetence charges or 60 days to file misconduct charges. In both cases, if teachers aren’t charged they can be returned to the classroom. However, investigations can continue beyond that point, and the teacher may still face charges.
In addition, the agreement allows the city to suspend teachers without pay following a probable cause hearing when the allegations include violent felony crimes.
In an effort to expedite hearings, the department has agreed to hire more arbiters. Currently, there are 23 but under the new agreement it will increase to 39.
To learn more about the Rubber Rooms, read and listen to Beth Fertig's story Life in the Rubber Room: Where Suspended Teachers Await Due Process.
This article was updated at 12:45 p.m.