Less talk, more action from Department of Education on 'rubber room' problem
Last Updated: 7:16 AM, February 14, 2010
Posted: 4:11 AM, February 14, 2010
"Rubber rooms" don't work.

They don't work for schools, students or taxpayers. They especially don't work for teachers, who have no desire to have incompetent or misbehaving colleagues but who also insist that the discipline process be fair and objective.

What's more, the rubber rooms are a problem that can be solved.

The UFT has offered many ways to streamline and expedite the process.

There is no reason most investigations cannot be completed in 30 days, and we have urged the hiring of more investigators to speed this part of the process.

In 2002, we negotiated an expedited process for lesser misconduct. That agreement permitted the Department of Education -- with the teacher's agreement -- to limit the total time for a hearing to three days. In the last eight years since this procedure was agreed upon, the DOE has used it twice.

In 2008, we worked with the DOE to increase the number of arbitration-panel members dedicated to these cases.

Despite these suggestions and agreements, and despite its fervent rhetoric, the DOE has not made solving the rubber-room problem a priority.

Here's a simple step forward for the DOE. In previous administrations, teachers removed from classrooms were put to work in administrative offices. That policy should be reinstated.

Here's another suggestion for the DOE: Work with the UFT to implement and improve the agreements already in place to speed up the process to remove individuals who should be out of the system -- but to ensure that the teachers who have been unfairly charged are returned quickly to their classrooms.

We can have a process that is efficient and fair to all, but only if the DOE decides it would rather solve the rubber-room problem than grandstand about it.

Michael Mulgrew is the president of the United Federation of Teachers.

Webmaster's comment:  The DOE wants to suspend the accused without pay and if the accused is found not guilty, backpay will be restored. This assumes the DOE will allow the accused to have a hearing.