Saturday, September 12, 2009


by Andrew Gillen

If you haven’t done so already, and have taken your blood pressure medicine, go read The Rubber Room by Steven Brill.

You will learn that teachers accused of crimes and incompetence in NY get sent to the Rubber Room
[600] teachers have been in the Rubber Room for an average of about three years, doing the same thing every day—which is pretty much nothing at all… until the charges are resolved—the process is often endless—they will continue to draw their salaries and accrue pensions and other benefits.

According to a teacher there, “Before Bloomberg and Klein took over, there was no such thing as incompetence,”

Seven of the fifteen Rubber Room teachers with whom I spoke compared their plight to that of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay or political dissidents in China or Iran.

“Randi Weingarten would protect a dead body in the classroom. That’s her job.”
When the bill for the arbitrator is added to the cost of the city’s lawyers and court reporters and the time spent in court by the principal and the assistant principal, Mohammed’s case will probably have cost the city and the state (which pays the arbitrator) about four hundred thousand dollars.

Nor is it by any means certain that, as a result of that investment, New York taxpayers will have to stop paying Mohammed’s salary, eighty-five thousand dollars a year. Arbitrators have so far proved reluctant to dismiss teachers for incompetence. Siegel, who is serving his second one-year term as an arbitrator and is paid fourteen hundred dollars for each day he works on a hearing, estimates that he has heard “maybe fifteen” cases… In fact, in the past two years arbitrators have terminated only two teachers for incompetence

Klein’s explanation is that “most arbitrators are not inclined to dismiss a teacher, because they have to get approved again every year by the union, and the union keeps a scorecard.”

by making it so hard to get even the obvious freaks and crazies that are there off the payroll, you insure that the teachers who are simply incompetent or mediocre are never incented to improve and are never removable,” Anthony Lombardi says.

I asked the woman for her reaction to the following statement: “If a teacher is given a chance or two chances or three chances to improve but still does not improve, there’s no excuse for that person to continue teaching. I reject a system that rewards failure and protects a person from its consequences.” “That sounds like Klein and his accountability bullshit,” she responded. “We can tell if we’re doing our jobs. We love these children.” After I told her that this was taken from a speech that President Obama made last March, she replied, “Obama wouldn’t say that if he knew the real story.”

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