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Liberalism At Its Best: 700 NYC Teachers Paid To Sit Around And Do Nothing

NEW YORK – Hundreds of New York City public school teachers accused of offenses ranging from insubordination to sexual misconduct are being paid their full salaries to sit around all day playing Scrabble, surfing the Internet or just staring at the wall, if that's what they want to do.

Because their union contract makes it extremely difficult to fire them, the teachers have been banished by the school system to its "rubber rooms" — off-campus office space where they wait months, even years, for their disciplinary hearings.

The 700 or so teachers can practice yoga, work on their novels, paint portraits of their colleagues — pretty much anything but school work. They have summer vacation just like their classroom colleagues and enjoy weekends and holidays through the school year.

"You just basically sit there for eight hours," said Orlando Ramos, who spent seven months in a rubber room, officially known as a temporary reassignment center, in 2004-05. "I saw several near-fights. `This is my seat.' `I've been sitting here for six months.' That sort of thing."

Ramos 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 took a job in California.

Because the teachers collect their full salaries of $70,000 or more, the city Department of Education estimates the practice costs the taxpayers $65 million a year. The department blames union rules.

"It is extremely difficult to fire a tenured teacher because of the protections afforded to them in their contract," spokeswoman Ann Forte said.

City officials said that they make teachers report to a rubber room instead of sending they home because the union contract requires that they be allowed to continue in their jobs in some fashion while their cases are being heard. The contract does not permit them to be given other work.

Ron Davis, a spokesman for the United Federation of Teachers, said the union and the Department of Education reached an agreement last year to try to reduce the amount of time educators spend in reassignment centers, but progress has been slow.

"No one wants teachers who don't belong in the classroom. However, we cannot neglect the teachers' rights to due process," Davis said. The union represents more than 228,000 employees, including nearly 90,000 teachers.

Many teachers say they are being punished because they ran afoul of a vindictive boss or because they blew the whistle when somebody fudged test scores.

"The principal wants you out, you're gone," said Michael Thomas, a high school math teacher who has been in a reassignment center for 14 months after accusing an assistant principal of tinkering with test results.

City education officials deny teachers are unfairly targeted but say there has been an effort under Mayor Michael Bloomberg to get incompetents out of the classroom. "There's been a push to report anything that you see wrong," Forte said.

Some other school systems likewise pay teachers to do nothing.

The Los Angeles district, the nation's second-largest school system with 620,000 students, behind New York's 1.1 million, said it has 178 teachers and other staff members who are being "housed" while they wait for misconduct charges to be resolved.

Similarly, Mimi Shapiro, who is now retired, said she was assigned to sit in what Philadelphia calls a "cluster office." "They just sit you in a room in a hard chair," she said, "and you just sit."

Teacher advocates say New York's rubber rooms are more extensive than anything that exists elsewhere.

Teachers awaiting disciplinary hearings around the nation typically are sent home, with or without pay, Karen Horwitz, a former Chicago-area teacher who founded the National Association for the Prevention of Teacher Abuse. Some districts find non-classroom work — office duties, for example — for teachers accused of misconduct.

New York City's reassignment centers have existed since the late 1990s, Forte said. But the number of employees assigned to them has ballooned since Bloomberg won more control over the schools in 2002. Most of those sent to rubber rooms are teachers; others are assistant principals, social workers, psychologists and secretaries.

Once their hearings are over, they are either sent back to the classroom or fired. But because their cases are heard by 23 arbitrators who work only five days a month, stints of two or three years in a rubber room are common, and some teachers have been there for five or six.

The nickname refers to the padded cells of old insane asylums. Some teachers say that is fitting, since some of the inhabitants are unstable and don't belong in the classroom. They add that being in a rubber room itself is bad for your mental health.

"Most people in that room are depressed," said Jennifer Saunders, a high school teacher who was in a reassignment center from 2005 to 2008. Saunders said she was charged with petty infractions in an effort to get rid of her: "I was charged with having a student sit in my class with a hat on, singing."

The rubber rooms are monitored, some more strictly than others, teachers said.

"There was a bar across the street," Saunders said. "Teachers would sneak out and hang out there for hours."

Judith Cohen, an art teacher who has been in a rubber room near Madison Square Garden for three years, said she passes the time by painting watercolors of her fellow detainees.

"The day just seemed to crawl by until I started painting," Cohen said, adding that others read, play dominoes or sleep. Cohen said she was charged with using abusive language when a girl cut her with scissors.

Some sell real estate, earn graduate degrees or teach each other yoga and tai chi.

David Suker, who has been in a Brooklyn reassignment center for three months, said he has used the time to plan summer trips to Alaska, Cape Cod and Costa Rica. Suker said he was falsely accused of throwing a girl's test sign-up form in the garbage during an argument.

"It's sort of peaceful knowing that you're going to work to do nothing," he said.

Philip Nobile is a journalist who has written for New York Magazine and the Village Voice and is known for his scathing criticism of public figures. A teacher at Brooklyn's Cobble Hill School of American Studies, Nobile was assigned to a rubber room in 2007, "supposedly for pushing a boy while I was breaking up a fight." He contends the school system is retaliating against him for exposing wrongdoing.

He is spending his time working on his case and writing magazine articles and a novel.

"This is what happens to political prisoners throughout history," he said, alluding to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. "They put us in prison and we write our `Letter From the Birmingham Jail.'"


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Added: Jun-23-2009 
By: MarkusMarone
In:
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Tags: Liberalism, Hard Work Liberal Style, Change, Hope, Unions
Views: 9081 | Comments: 0 | Votes: 1 | Favorites: 1 | Shared: 3 | Updates: 0 | Times used in channels: 1
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  • One word:
    Teachers Union

    I'm amazed when you see poor kids come out of NYC schools and articulate perfectly without any hint of ebonics or ghetto ignorance. There are many kids across the city who actually do get an education. Of course these kids have an uphill battle because most of their immigrant parents lack any education or financially enriched home environments focused on their achievement.
    I hate the president of the teachers union, Randy Weingarten and the union and their dysfunction.

    Posted Jun-23-2009 By 

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  • That is all that these libtard "teachers" are good for. ONLY a progressive could even think about sitting around on its ass taking honest traxpayer moeney.

    At least they can't destroy childrens minds and morals as long as they are kept in their cage.

    Posted Jun-23-2009 By 

    (3) | Report

  • Another 50 to 70 million a year wasted.

    Posted Jun-23-2009 By 

    (3) | Report

  • Just wait until all of the shit projects Obama rammed up our asses with the "fraud-ulous" package start coming out. So far, I love the $3.5 million dollar turtle crossing being built under a roadway.

    Are you liberals proud of your messiah?

    Posted Jun-23-2009 By 

    (2) | Report

    • He could spend 45.6 billion on a baby-monkey shoot range and the libs would still worship their MESSIAH. Also, when you don't pay anything in taxes, who cares! Who care's what you spend it on as long as its other people's money!

      Libs; people who contribute NOTHING to society should not be allowed to vote. We should have a meritocracy, not be ruled by the uneducated sheep and peasants of America.

      Posted Jun-23-2009 By 

      (2) | Report

    • You really should focus that hate on something else... like cancer.

      Posted Jun-23-2009 By 

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    • You can't do that, There wouldn't be any voters for the ObamaNation

      Posted Jun-23-2009 By 

      (1) | Report

    • markus moron at his best....thinks Liberalism is to blame....

      Posted Jun-23-2009 By 

      (0) | Report

    • LMAO at this retard and his support of the welfare leeches. He's just angry and takes my posts so personally because he's one of them.

      Posted Jun-23-2009 By 

      (-2) | Report

  • Comment of user 'Amusing' has been deleted by author (after account deletion)!
  • I went to public schools, and I can say that a lot of the high school teachers were genuinely nuts. I don't think it's accurate to say its a problem of "liberalism". It's more like an unfortunate combination of liberal and conservative-driven bureaucratic problems. It needs to be easier for the bad teachers to be fired, but also the good teachers need to be paid much better in some school systems. The teachers are paid so badly in some school systems that they really need to be som More..

    Posted Jun-23-2009 By 

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  • Liberal states are a damn mess:

    California
    New York
    Michigan
    Oregon

    Democrats simply believe that business is inherently evil and its only purpose is not prosperity for the dreamer and risk taker, but for wealth distribution.

    I mean, are we all just asleep and in denial with what Democrats stand for? Obama came out in the campaign and told Joe the plumber exactly what he thinks, that we "have to spread the wealth around."

    Why is anyone in here shocked and miffed. Welfa More..

    Posted Jun-23-2009 By 

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  • I've heard about these guys. It's all the folks that the NY school system wants to fire but they can't do it legally.

    Some of them should be fired.

    Some of them just pissed off the wrong principal.

    The school system basically bores them into quitting, at full pay.

    Posted Jun-23-2009 By 

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  • what do you fascists think? you just accuse somebody and they lose thier job and pay?!

    this is america. sorry we can not deal with your fascist desires to fire anyone who has ever been accused of anything.

    it's real easy for someone to makeup lies about you

    for instance: MarkusMaron is a troll!

    now, Markus...do you think you just instantly get banned by simply being accused?

    Posted Jun-23-2009 By 

    (1) | Report

  • thought that was all government jobs?

    Posted Jun-23-2009 By 

    (0) | Report

  • No but you see its forward thinking.

    Posted Jun-23-2009 By 

    (0) | Report

  • Trust Bloomberg to do things right!! its either his way for the highway.

    Posted Jun-23-2009 By 

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  • i read American history and the reason why American workers fought to have unions created in the first place

    i'm glad we have unions. and i'm also glad we have a minimum wage

    my main complaint about unions would be similar to yours, though, in that it's too hard to fire people from a job sometimes and any mafia related influence therein. but i wouldn't abolish unions, either

    Posted Jun-23-2009 By 

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    • Minimum wage and unions are a joke. They were a necessary evil back in the day, but are now used to artificially fluff up a false standard of living amongst our underclasses. They mask an underlying problem of laziness, complacency, and lack of ambition in millions of Americans. And in the process, they reward that behavior.

      Posted Jun-23-2009 By 

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  • Whoa, are we talking about teachers or wallstreet?

    Posted Jun-23-2009 By 

    (0) | Report

  • Also, unions need reform, but without them workers who complain too much would still be gunned down by company security.

    If you wanna know how bad things were, google "pinkerton guards" and discover the origins of the word "redneck" and how it ment a positive thing for people who stood up to murdering businessmen

    Posted Jun-23-2009 By 

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  • One phrase - it's been going on for years. Why not blame it on Bush? It was going on when he was in office too.

    Posted Jun-23-2009 By 

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    • This is local NYC lib politics at its best. The ghetto riff raff, upper west side limousine liberals, and the unions are the ones who created this shit mess.

      Posted Jun-23-2009 By 

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    • True, typical Union BS, but to say that all Union members are libs is a generalization that doesn't fit.

      This kind of BS has been going on for years and years - that's not making an excuse for it. But that's the way it is, and just one of the things that must be changed.

      Did you know that Congressmen can still collect their full pension - which is equivalent to their salary and full benefits even ater they've been convicted of a crime such as bribery?

      Posted Jun-23-2009 By 

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    • Of course, of course... some our conservative, but I meant that most of the ideology behind unions is liberal. Their tactics and goals are very similar. I think unions played an important role back in the day but need to go now. Now, I think they're not much different than the mob; a bunch of parasites/leeches.

      Posted Jun-23-2009 By 

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    • Not much different than the mob? Hell! They're run by the mob.

      Posted Jun-23-2009 By 

      (2) | Report