The headline reads, “700 NYC Teachers are Paid to do Nothing.” Intriguing. Some days I’m so overwhelmed at school, I’d love to be paid to just sit and do nothing for a day or two. It seems these teachers, however, are being paid to sit out of the classroom while waiting for hearings. All of them have been accused of wrongdoing of some sort and, because of the strong union in New York, they cannot be fired without a disciplinary hearing.
I live and work in a right-to-work state. Being a part of the local or state-level union is optional, which means that membership is typically low. Consequently, unions don’t have a lot of clout. I’ve heard of non-tenured teachers being fired on the spot, given less-than-desirable assignments to flush out what the administration deems a “bad seed,” assigned extra duties and responsibilities as punishment, and moved to another school mid-year because of an infraction. There’s not a lot teachers can do about this. Quit? Sure.
But to put 700 teachers (making salaries of $70,000+) in a room for months, and sometimes years, on end just seems ridiculous. The arbitrators that hear the teachers’ cases work only five days a month, causing a huge back-up.
Administration officials complain that the union makes it too difficult to fire teachers. But if a teacher is in the so-called “rubber room” for sexual misconduct, why should taxpayers have to pay for the teacher to sit and write a book or teach fellow “detainees” yoga? That’s what they’re doing, and not just in New York. Similar rooms exist in unionized states all over the country!
Some of the teachers are being disciplined for what I see as minor infractions, such as using foul language after being abused by a student. (I’d probably have a few involuntary words myself if a student physically abused me!) Another teacher is accused of pushing a student while attempting to stop a fight. (In the heat of the moment, someone likely did get pushed. But the teacher was protecting both students from each other. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?)
Teachers waiting for their disciplinary hearings are not permitted to do school work, and they must stay in the room during the school day. Though they do still enjoy weekends, holidays, and summers off while waiting. All while earning their regular salary.
I’m sure all teachers yearn for that paid day off now and again. But to hold disciplinary hearings only five times a month while paying teachers their regular salaries to sit and wait is just a waste. Get the teachers with the major infractions out of the way quickly, and deal with the minor infractions at the school or district level. Don't misuse taxpayer dollars.