NYC to stop paying idle teachers

Associated Press / April 16, 2010

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NEW YORK — Hundreds of New York City teachers who are paid full salaries to do nothing while they await disciplinary hearings will be released from the city’s “rubber rooms’’ this fall, officials announced yesterday.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the teachers union announced a deal to reassign most of the teachers to administrative or non-classroom work while their cases are pending.

About 650 educators, more than 500 of them teachers, are in the teacher-reassignment centers, costing the city tens of millions of dollars a year, including $30 million in salaries, officials said.

The teachers generally spend months or years in the so-called rubber rooms playing Scrabble, reading, or surfing the Internet while still collecting full salaries of $70,000 a year or more. The nickname refers to the padded cells of asylums, and teachers have said the name is fitting, since some of the inhabitants can become unstable.

The city has blamed union rules that make it difficult to fire teachers, but some teachers assigned to rubber rooms say they have been singled out because they blew the whistle on a principal who was fudging test scores.

“The rubber rooms were the result of a broken and protracted teacher-discipline process,’’ Schools Chancellor Joel Klein said yesterday.

Orlando Ramos, who spent seven months in a rubber room in 2004-05, said he was ecstatic to hear they would be closing.

“We want to coach those that are not prepared for this profession to move on. However, we also want justice for those who have been accused of wrongdoing,’’ Ramos said. “The rubber room has been the wrong answer for so long.’’

Ramos, who is now a middle school principal in San Jose, was an assistant principal in East Harlem when he was accused of lying at a hearing on whether to suspend a student. Ramos denied the allegation but quit before his case was resolved and moved to California.