The plight of the nyc Rubber Room teacher

One of Scheiner’s Rubber Room colleagues pointed to a man whose head was resting on the table, beside an alarm clock and four prescription-pill bottles. “Look at him,” she said. “He should be in a hospital, not this place. We talk about human rights in China. What about human rights right here in the Rubber Room?” 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. It’s a theme that the U.F.T. has embraced. The union’s Web site has a section that features stories highlighting the injustice of the Rubber Rooms.

Wow they make over $100k per year?

I wish they weren’t allowed to read, sleep, talk, etc. in those rooms. Stare straight ahead for 6 hours a day.

Comparing to China or Iran? Give me a break - they’re paid to sit and do nothing all day for (possibly) years, free to quit and walk out at anytime. If anyone should be complaining, it’s the tax payers.

Jesus Christ, let’s bust these unions already! What’s it going to take, if not this?

The United Federation of Teachers, the U.F.T., was founded in 1960. Before that, teachers endured meagre salaries, tyrannical principals, witch hunts for Communists, and gender discrimination against a mostly female workforce (at one point, there was a rule requiring any woman who got pregnant to take a two-year unpaid leave).

Yeah! Bust that union!

That story is insane. However, I do think the “rubber room” concept is a bit over the top. As the article points out, other large urban districts at least find productive ways to get something out of teachers that have been pulled out of the classroom. Having nearly 2,000 teachers sitting around making money and getting nothing or little out of them while they are on the payroll is about as stupid as some of the unions negotiated rules or the fact that it takes 2-5 years to get a case before an arbitrator.

And how do I become an abitrator? $1400 a day is a nice income.

In New York, where Weingarten is a sought-after member of Democratic-campaign steering committees, state legislators and New York City Council members are even more closely tied to the U.F.T., which has the city’s largest political-action fund and contributes generously to Democrats and Republicans alike. As a result, in April of 2008 the State Legislature passed a law, promoted by the union, that prohibited Klein from using student test data to evaluate teachers for tenure, something that he had often talked about doing.

Scores should be used only “in a thoughtful and reflective way,” Weingarten told me. “We acted in Albany because no one trusted that Joel Klein would use them to measure performance in a fair way.”


You’ve never been a teacher, have you?

I’ve been a teacher, and I support using test scores as one ingredient in the tenure process. As it is, the tenure process in Los Angeles, and it sounds like in New York as well, is “Do you have your certification? Have you been here two/three years? Well, ok then.”

Yes, let’s bust that union, and fire every teacher who isn’t performing. If labor practices are still unfair after that, start a new, more reasonable one made up of the teachers who are left (or recruited in the wake of the firings). Clearly this isn’t working (to put it mildly) so why is it so taboo to break everything in fixing it?

While I understand the desire to protect against capricious principal firings, if the union thinks a process that costs $400,000 to remove an incompetent teacher is reasonable protection than perhaps the union should be required to reimburse the district the 400K if the teacher is ultimately removed.

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. It’s a theme that the U.F.T. has embraced. The union’s Web site has a section that features stories highlighting the injustice of the Rubber Rooms.

Do you have a problem with the people responsible for that educating your children? Being anywhere near your children? Maybe we should take a look at the % of teachers who opt to educate their children outside of the public education system.

Excuse my ignorance of unions, as I don’t have much experience with them here in Texas.

So if there is a union like the UFT, do you automatically become a member if you are a teacher teaching in New York City? Does the union have the right to refuse membership to someone? To me it seems like there should be an obligation by the union to maintain/sustain/increase standards of excellence in their members so that the union as a whole is protected from things like this and yet it seems like the union is taking anyone and everyone that it can, which seems to bring down the quality and value of the union as a whole. I assume there are anti-discrimination laws that require this, but can anyone more familiar with this shed some light on the subject?

Why blame the union? The city/state of New York - a far larger entity with more clout - agreed to these terms. I agree the whole thing is absurd, but it takes two to tango. So saying “bust the union” isn’t the solution…negotiating a better contract is.

According to the article, the Teacher’s Union is a huge political donor in New York (the California Teacher’s Association is also a big mover in California, donating millions of dollars yearly to campaigns for various propositions); the various teachers unions are also associated with other big unions (AFL-CIO, I think, but it might be they’re associated with another education union). And while the state might have lots of clout in a certain sense, being rough with teachers in negotiations isn’t necessarily good PR.

That’s the key. But people pick up on it as the only thing that matters, which bugs me to no end.

The Byzantine process for getting rid of a bad teacher in NYC is most definitely a problem, and is keeping new (possibly better) teachers from getting jobs. But killing the union isn’t anywhere near the solution.

Entrenched, calcified unions are impossible to negotiate with. Do you really think Michael Bloomberg would sign a contract like this if there was any chance of negotiating something that even an idiot would term “reasonable?” The teachers unions have come to the point where they frame ANY discussion of performance evaluation as an attack not only on teachers (who should not be punished because “they love what they do,”) but on the students as well. That’s ridiculous.

Pay good teachers something comparable to what they might earn in the private sector provided their classes show significant and measureable progress, fire bad teachers, let whoever is left standing decide if they want to unionize or not. Now that I think about it, I agree with you - strike a better contract with the teacher’s union by offering to pay any teacher who agrees to leave the union significantly more than those content to sit in their “Chinese prisons,” and make that pay increase dependent on standardized test results. Let’s see how many stick around.

Intriguing as it is, I suspect that plan is illegal.