Wondering where the tax money you pay into the NYC public school system is going? Well, part of it goes to pay the salaries of about 700 teachers who are forced to sit in special rooms that are located all over the city. All day. And do nothing. Sometimes for years at a time. [Rubber Room via BuzzFeed]

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  1. bonzombiekitty says:

    They had a segment on This American Life about that a couple weeks ago.

  2. chiieddy says:

    @bonzombiekitty: I was just going to say that.

  3. ribex says:

    I tried to read the paragraphs after clicking “What is the Rubber Room?” and I think I was going blind. Ow. Eyes hurt. I couldn’t make the text bigger or even highlight it (usually grey) to make it readable.

    Sounds like a travesty – I’m going to have to get info about it somewhere else, though, cause I couldn’t stand it any longer.

    Ow.

  4. NoNamesLeft says:

    I think Spitzer needs to put them to work…

  5. FightOnTrojans says:

    Wow, I thought the school district I work for was screwed up. We at least put those teachers accused of something to work in the administrative offices. Or back in the schools to prey upon the students as was done recently with one assistant principal. Ooops.

  6. AT203 says:

    Link is to some lame flash movie. Article that I can read please.

  7. AT203 says:

    Link to This American Life story on this matter: [www.thislife.org]

  8. Angryrider says:

    I read the NY Times article about it, and man it sucks on both sides. It wastes money and demoralizes the teachers.
    [www.nytimes.com]

  9. adminslave says:

    Here’s the link on the This American Life show: [www.thisamericanlife.org]
    I’m listening to it now, and one teacher was reassigned for ‘verbal abuse’ because an 8th grade class accidentally overheard him say the f-word in the hallway once to another teacher. Baffling.

  10. adminslave says:

    @AT203: sorry! I should have refreshed.

  11. DJC says:

    Here is the What is the Rubber Room from that flash site:

    “What is The Rubber Room?

    Simply put, “The Rubber Room” is a room where hundreds and hundreds of New York City schoolteachers presently sit, being paid full salary to do absolutely nothing.

    But, like so many things, it’s not quite so simple…

    What Happens?

    Each year in New York City hundreds of schoolteachers are suspended. Their teaching privileges are temporarily, but indefinitely, revoked.

    Accused of a wide range and varying degrees of misconduct, these teachers are no longer allowed in the classroom. Instead, while awaiting a lengthy adjudication process, they are compelled to report to an
    off-campus location commonly referred to as The Rubber Room.

    Annual Costs in Excess of $25 Million

    Teachers assigned to a Rubber Room can spend months and often years there. Though they continue to collect their full salaries, they are not asked or allowed to perform work of any kind, instead sitting idle day after day.

    The annual cost of the New York City Department of Education’s Rubber Room is estimated to be in excess of $25 million, with some estimates ranging as high as $40 million. In addition, there is a general consensus that this cost is rising steeply with each passing year.

    The Rooms

    There exists, at any given time, at least one Rubber Room in each of New York City’s five boroughs. The rooms are often medium-sized,
    non-descript administrative spaces with chairs and sometimes tables. Because almost no one in the New York City public education system is willing to discuss the issue on record, it is difficult to obtain a figure regarding the total number of teachers housed in these rooms, but educated guesses usually place it at a population of approximately 600 to 900 occupants, a population that, according to most, is steadily and even dramatically increasing.

    Psychological Impact and Taboo

    Rubber Room occupants often report feelings of being deprived of their dignity and sense of self worth. Forced to languish in a state of silent, inactive limbo day after day, they describe being treated like prison inmates in the face of what they feel are baseless charges or complaints. They often recount an almost Kafkaesque set of procedures, whereby they are transferred to a Rubber Room without being told what they are accused of, who their accusers are, or even, in many instances, that they have been accused of anything at all.

    Once assigned to a Rubber Room, teachers are often shunned by their peers and former school administrators. A general atmosphere of taboo will in many cases follow them for the remainder of their careers, long after they have returned to regular teaching and even, in many cases, after having been fully acquitted of their accusations.

    A Dangerous Topic

    The Rubber Room is an extremely controversial subject, with many involved in New York education regarding it as simply too dangerous a topic to discuss.

    Some complain that The Rubber Room allows teachers guilty of atrocious and even criminal misconduct to remain on the public payroll, being paid a full salary to sit and do nothing. On the other side, there are those that claim the entire process, although initially created as an instrument to protect child safety, has now been expanded into a lethal weapon, used by principals and other administrators to remove teachers from their classrooms based on minor insubordination, personality conflicts, or even for budgetary reasons such as making way for a new replacement teacher who will be paid a far lesser salary.

    Although opinions vary widely with respect to The Rubber Room, they do seem to share one common denominator: they are impassioned, sometimes inflammatory, and never positive. Put another way, it would be extremely difficult to find an individual, either working in New York City education or not, who thinks The Rubber Room is a system that works even moderately well.

    The Documentary

    The Rubber Room, a Five Boroughs Productions documentary film,
    is an in-depth, unbiased exploration of the New York City Department of Education’s teacher suspension process.

    The Rubber Room asks the tough questions about “the room” itself, but also relates those questions to larger trends in both New York City and national education. It closely examines the lives of teachers, students, parents and administrators; and glimpses the future of one of society’s most important institutions, that of our public education system.

    Five Boroughs Productions is still in the process of conducting formal interviews for The Rubber Room. If you are someone who would like to tell your story, please contact us in complete confidentiality.”

  12. DJC says:

    What is The Rubber Room?

    Simply put, “The Rubber Room” is a room where hundreds and hundreds of New York City schoolteachers presently sit, being paid full salary to do absolutely nothing.

    But, like so many things, it’s not quite so simple…

    What Happens?

    Each year in New York City hundreds of schoolteachers are suspended. Their teaching privileges are temporarily, but indefinitely, revoked.

    Accused of a wide range and varying degrees of misconduct, these teachers are no longer allowed in the classroom. Instead, while awaiting a lengthy adjudication process, they are compelled to report to an
    off-campus location commonly referred to as The Rubber Room.

    Annual Costs in Excess of $25 Million

    Teachers assigned to a Rubber Room can spend months and often years there. Though they continue to collect their full salaries, they are not asked or allowed to perform work of any kind, instead sitting idle day after day.

    The annual cost of the New York City Department of Education’s Rubber Room is estimated to be in excess of $25 million, with some estimates ranging as high as $40 million. In addition, there is a general consensus that this cost is rising steeply with each passing year.

    The Rooms

    There exists, at any given time, at least one Rubber Room in each of New York City’s five boroughs. The rooms are often medium-sized,
    non-descript administrative spaces with chairs and sometimes tables. Because almost no one in the New York City public education system is willing to discuss the issue on record, it is difficult to obtain a figure regarding the total number of teachers housed in these rooms, but educated guesses usually place it at a population of approximately 600 to 900 occupants, a population that, according to most, is steadily and even dramatically increasing.

    Psychological Impact and Taboo

    Rubber Room occupants often report feelings of being deprived of their dignity and sense of self worth. Forced to languish in a state of silent, inactive limbo day after day, they describe being treated like prison inmates in the face of what they feel are baseless charges or complaints. They often recount an almost Kafkaesque set of procedures, whereby they are transferred to a Rubber Room without being told what they are accused of, who their accusers are, or even, in many instances, that they have been accused of anything at all.

    Once assigned to a Rubber Room, teachers are often shunned by their peers and former school administrators. A general atmosphere of taboo will in many cases follow them for the remainder of their careers, long after they have returned to regular teaching and even, in many cases, after having been fully acquitted of their accusations.

    A Dangerous Topic

    The Rubber Room is an extremely controversial subject, with many involved in New York education regarding it as simply too dangerous a topic to discuss.

    Some complain that The Rubber Room allows teachers guilty of atrocious and even criminal misconduct to remain on the public payroll, being paid a full salary to sit and do nothing. On the other side, there are those that claim the entire process, although initially created as an instrument to protect child safety, has now been expanded into a lethal weapon, used by principals and other administrators to remove teachers from their classrooms based on minor insubordination, personality conflicts, or even for budgetary reasons such as making way for a new replacement teacher who will be paid a far lesser salary.

    Although opinions vary widely with respect to The Rubber Room, they do seem to share one common denominator: they are impassioned, sometimes inflammatory, and never positive. Put another way, it would be extremely difficult to find an individual, either working in New York City education or not, who thinks The Rubber Room is a system that works even moderately well.

    The Documentary

    The Rubber Room, a Five Boroughs Productions documentary film,
    is an in-depth, unbiased exploration of the New York City Department of Education’s teacher suspension process.

    The Rubber Room asks the tough questions about “the room” itself, but also relates those questions to larger trends in both New York City and national education. It closely examines the lives of teachers, students, parents and administrators; and glimpses the future of one of society’s most important institutions, that of our public education system.

    Five Boroughs Productions is still in the process of conducting formal interviews for The Rubber Room. If you are someone who would like to tell your story, please contact us in complete confidentiality.

  13. shan6 says:

    How is this ok? The teachers who may do something that warrants being forced to sit in a room all day definitely don’t deserve to have their salaries still. And the teachers who don’t deserve this are forced to sit in a fucking room all day!

  14. FightOnTrojans says:

    Just spoke with someone with first-hand knowledge of how this is handled by my school district. He says that it’s pretty much the same here. They may get general clerical work, but for the most part they are not given anything to do. But, the district is basically in a Catch-22 because you can’t really fire them until the investigation plays out, but you don’t really want them with the kiddies either. You also don’t want to publicize that the person is being investigated for whatever because if the accusation is false, you could ruin someone’s career and expose the district to litigation. I hope the documentary does more than point out the flaws with the current system; it should also provide solutions.

  15. no.no.notorious says:

    this is why america is going to be the land of morons over the next 20 years and we’ll all sit around wondering why mexican children with an INSTILLED WORK ETHIC are getting all the high end jobs.

    this makes me want to home school when i have children more and more.

  16. bigtimestuff says:

    I also heard about this on This American Life. It’s completely ridiculous and I can’t imagine sticking around for something to happen, no matter how much I sometimes like to imagine a day filled with nothing but reading and sitting around. Then again, it would be reading and sitting around in a room full of listless and disgruntled people….

  17. Trai_Dep says:

    Wow, a lot of This American Life fans on Consumerist. Good to see!

  18. RIP MRHANDS says:

    @FightOnTrojans: If they’re being kept there for months at a time, clearly the problem is bureaucratic. Conceptually, that is easy to fix.

  19. arch05 says:

    anyone have a solution?

  20. Coelacanth says:

    @NoNamesLeft: Sorry, Spitzer’s no more…. he was caught with a whore.

  21. bsalamon says:

    and people are surprised?

  22. Coelacanth says:

    Reassigning them to more productive tasks would be a better solution. However, I have a hard time understanding why people would be willing to put up with anything more than a few weeks of sittling idly by.

    On one hand, The Rubber Room brilliant tactic to get anyone who’s halfway ambitious (and intelligent) to quit. However, that’s purely an intimidation tactic. For those who *are* willing to just sit in a room and do nothing all day should be fired.

    However, somebody who’s okay with just “sucking air” is not an employee I’d ever want to work with.

    While I know there are many other issues at stake, how could anyone stand doing nothing for a prolonged period of time?

  23. JohnOB1 says:

    @shan6: Remember, “accused” doesn’t mean they definitely did it. I know teachers who were in the Rubber Room, but the charges were unfounded.

  24. TurboWagon00 says:

    The Big Three Automakers have been doing the same thing for years via their “job banks”. Viva la unions

  25. cmdr.sass says:

    “I have a hard time understanding why people would be willing to put up with anything more than a few weeks of sittling idly by.”

    You’ve just described the American Dream for the union worker. Full salary, medical benefits, no responsibilities, and can’t be fired? Where do I sign up?

  26. forgottenpassword says:

    I’ve heard of the rubber room before. What a racket! Wish I could show up to work & sit in a room all day where I can basically do whatever I wanted! I’d bring a wifi-enabled laptop with an exterior antenna & surf around on the net all day. lol!

    The ribber room is what happens when unions get too powerfull.

  27. @FightOnTrojans: I think “can’t fire them, can’t put them near the kids” is why they gave us “paid leave.”

    Has anyone written their first novel yet while rubber room-ized?

  28. Orv says:

    Wow. You know, I could see them being suspended with pay during an investigation (it seems to happen all the time when police officers are accused of something), but making them sit around instead of just sending them home seems a bit silly. I suppose then people would argue they’re getting a paid vacation, though.

  29. I remember seeing something similar dealing with the Auto Industry Unions (UAW), where the auto manufacturing plants aren’t allowed by the union to lay people off but they don’t have any work to give them, so there are rooms in the plants where these workers go everyday for a full work day, sit down and do nothing all day, and get paid a full salary to do so. Sure, its not taxpayer money thats getting flushed down the crapper, so its not as bad as the “Rubber Room” scenario, but nonsensical all the same.

  30. AlphaTeam says:

    @forgottenpassword: If I were the boss, I’d line the walls with aluminum to block all radios equipment.

  31. FightOnTrojans says:

    @AlphaTeam: Wouldn’t that just turn the room into one big antennae?

  32. Orv says:

    @FightOnTrojans: Not if you ground the metal. Actually, it doesn’t have to be solid — mesh works just as well. This is called a “Faraday cage” — no radio signals can get in or out. A practical example of a Faraday cage is your microwave oven.

  33. Trai_Dep says:

    Believe it or not, there are some teachers that enter the profession in spite of the lush salaries, the insane expense accounts and the leased European sports cars. They like the job. Oh wait, there is none of that, just the job.

    Imagine you’re one of those (hard for some, it seems – perhaps angry and all those Cs you earned when you were a kid?), dumped in the Rubber Room for unfounded reasons.

    It’d be hell. It’s totally messed up.

  34. Tonguetied says:

    I have heard of these rooms before but from the point of view of the administration. A BIG part of the problem is the the Teachers’ Unions are not willing to admit that there are some bad teachers out there. The lengthy arbitration process that causee the rooms to be set up is due to the Teachers’ Union rules, it’s easier to just pay them to sit there and do nothing that it is to fire them.

    I can see how this could become an arbitrary tool of coercion used by principals and administrators to get rid of teachers who are whistle blowing or just opposed to their policies but I also know that you can have both bad administrators and bad teachers. It’s when you pretend that one side is all angels and the other side is all devils that you mess up…

  35. OletheaEurystheus says:

    This has to have something to do with NY’s teacher union as the NEA has never really taken issue to suspension without pay for teachers accused of misconduct as long as if cleared they received all back pay.

    NY is not part of the NEA but rather the AFT.

    That being said a lot of blame here is being put on teachers unions when it really is a administration thing. You CAN fire a teach, and its not that difficult to do, just no one in administration feels like filling the proper paperwork to do it as it is a double edge sword. In one way it could be the teacher is in fact a poor teacher, but then the administrator themselves could come under question if its found the teacher is being unfairly targeted by administrators with poor administrative skills (you see this VERY often in teaching, especially with younger ones who did it just because of a easy 40k raise over base teacher pay.)

    Basically it boils down to you better be REALLY positive the teacher is a bad teacher and there are not mitigating factors (bad students, lack of administrative backup, etc) A lot of administrators are too lazy to bother.

    I have seen teachers fired, but at the same time I have seen administrators who dont give a shit (like my own) and administrators who use being written up as a threat without any basis, which typically ends up in litigation and the administrator not being taken seriously in the future.

    There is a LOT more to teaching and the politics of it than the public really knows. And the talking heads on the weekend shows certainly simplify it well beyond the truth of things.