When a student acts up in class, the teacher usually sends them to the Principal’s office. But what happens to a New York City teacher or school administrator when they are accused of misconduct? They get sent to so-called “rubber rooms” during the investigation. The time they spend waiting there could be weeks, months or even years.
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.
Sounds like a holiday, but to many teachers waiting and facing accusations it’s not.
“Most people in that room are depressed,” said Jennifer Saunders, a high school teacher who was in a reassignment center from 2005 to 2008.
The New York City re-assignment centers have existed since the 1990s, but according to the Associated Press, “the number of employees assigned to them has ballooned since Bloomberg won more control over the schools in 2002.”
Because teacher’s union contracts make it difficult to fire them, teachers waiting in the rubber room collect their full salaries which, according to the Department of Education, ends up costing taxpayers $65 million a year.
It’s a battle between the city and the teacher’s unions, students and teachers. And who knows how things will turn out.
700 NYC teachers are paid to do nothing [AP News]
The Rubber Room story on This American Life [This American Life website]
Watch The Rubber Room documentary trailer: