Rubber Rooms Redux, Teachers Unions and Taxpayers

posted at 4:10 pm on February 28, 2011 by Jazz Shaw

A new poll out from Rasmussen would seem to indicate that the increasing costs and scandals associated with teachers unions are taking a hefty toll on their public image. Nearly half of those surveyed – 46% – were of the opinion that the unionization of teachers was “a bad thing.” Only a bit over a third still thought it was a good idea.

Americans continue to believe strongly that being a teacher is an essential job, but a plurality thinks it’s a bad thing that most teachers are unionized.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 68% of American Adults view being a teacher as one of the most important jobs in our country today, down five points from May of last year but up slightly from when we first asked the question in May 2008. Twenty-one percent (21%) say it’s not one of the most important jobs, and 12% aren’t sure.

In times past I would have found this shocking. After all, we’re talking about schools here, so it’s for the children. Think of the children! And to this day, on the rare occasions when we still manage to do something that actually is for the children, there’s fairly universal consensus that we can all get behind it. But increasingly, most of the headlines aren’t about things we do for the children. Nor are they really for the teachers themselves. It’s all about the unions.

I wouldn’t be surprised if New Yorkers were heavily represented in this poll. After all, the Empire state was the home of the nationally scandalous story which lit up the wires last year after the public found out about the rubber rooms.

The rubber rooms — so nicknamed after the padded cells of old-style mental hospitals — have become a symbol of the unacceptable face of the city’s education system, which is the largest in the US. Around 600 teachers are currently occupying the temporary reassignment centres, as they are officially known, in locations across the city, including a trailer site in Washington Heights.

From Monday to Friday during school hours the teachers sit in the rooms under instruction to do whatever they like, so long as it has nothing to do with teaching. Some play Scrabble, read books or do yoga, others run small businesses on their laptops, many wile away the hours by sleeping.

The reasons cited for their confinement to what has been described as purgatory or jail for teachers range from excessive lateness or absence, sexual misconduct with a student, physical abuse, incompetence or use of drugs or alcohol.

Of course, as the linked article indicates, once this system was exposed to public view, New York City moved quickly to eliminate them. (Supposedly accomplished as of April 2010.) But even if the physical rubber rooms are gone, has the base issue of idle, under-performing or even criminal teachers on the payroll gone away? You’d be hard pressed to think so according to these recent plans unveiled by Mayor Bloomberg.

New York City could be forced to fire nearly all of the 15,000 teachers hired over the last five years unless the state’s teacher seniority rules are scrapped, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Sunday. That’s on top of plans to cut more than 6,000 teachers in the fiscal year beginning July 1.

Publicly, Gov. Cuomo restated that he would not consider changing the seniority rules as part of the state budget. But the New York Post reported today that Cuomo is privately considering a compromise that would allow Bloomberg to lay off between 2,000 and 4,000 “nonteaching teachers,” regardless of their seniority. Targeted teachers would include those who, until recently, filled New York’s infamous “rubber rooms” and nonworking teachers from schools that have been closed due to poor performance.

So we got rid of the rooms to dampen public outrage, but kept the teachers on the payroll anyway because of seniority issues. I’m hard pressed to think of any other occupation where you can keep drawing full pay – sometimes for up to a decade, as the highlighted article points out – after those types of abuses. In fact, I don’t know of any others where you can keep getting paid even if your performance was exceptional but there simply wasn’t enough work for you.

Is it really any wonder that the public has soured on this? The taxpayers need a fully empowered seat at the table for any negotiations over such a massive budget expenditure running on their time. To date, this has never happened.

EDIT: And thanks to Mrs. Martin, my grade school English teacher and the rest of the commentariat who point out it should have been “half.”


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Good. The tide is turning.

OmahaConservative on February 28, 2011 at 4:15 PM

From Monday to Friday during school hours the teachers sit in the rooms under instruction to do whatever they like, so long as it has nothing to do with teaching.

The reasons cited for their confinement to what has been described as purgatory or jail for teachers range from excessive lateness or absence, sexual misconduct with a student, physical abuse, incompetence or use of drugs or alcohol.

So they are being rewarded for bad behavior while the taxpayers are being punished with higher taxation for good behavior.

Anyone see how this could become a problem?

Chip on February 28, 2011 at 4:17 PM

Nearly have of those surveyed – 46% – were of the opinion that the unionization of teachers was “a bad thing.

Is the State Media really failing this completely? I don’t watch them any more, but I think I’ve got a good idea how they are covering this based on my leftwing acquittance’s talking points. Teacher’s unions were sacrosanct even a few years ago…as you note, for the children.

18-1 on February 28, 2011 at 4:19 PM

have,half,halve *shrug

equanimous on February 28, 2011 at 4:19 PM

Quite simply, WE’VE BEEN SCREWED BY THE CHILDREN. And what has it gotten us? Besides LOWER test scores?

GarandFan on February 28, 2011 at 4:21 PM

would seem to indicate that the increasing costs and scandals associated with teachers unions are taking a hefty toll on their public image.

what about all of the 20 something female teachers bagging their 15 yr old students? Is that taking a toll as well?

ted c on February 28, 2011 at 4:25 PM

I highly recommend “Waiting for Superman.” It’s good enough to make even liberals despise the teachers union.

LASue on February 28, 2011 at 4:27 PM

I’m hard pressed to think of any other occupation where you can keep drawing full pay – sometimes for up to a decade, as the highlighted article points out – after those types of abuses

Congressional Democrat

malclave on February 28, 2011 at 4:27 PM

1) Fire every teacher.

2) Decertify every teacher’s union

3) Pass legislation forbidding teacher’s unions

4) Post teacher positions – let them reapply.

5) Apply Jack Welch’s policy – fire the bottom 10% every year.

turfmann on February 28, 2011 at 4:27 PM

In my own life I can honestly say that some of the best people I have known were teachers. But some worst people I’ve known have also been teachers. The shame of the unions is that the bad ones get to ride on the backs of the good ones. A good plan without the NEA would se good teachers make as much money as their skills would demand, and the bad ones would be forced out of the system to find something they are better suited for.

MikeA on February 28, 2011 at 4:34 PM

In my entire 50+ adult years, I’ve never seen a corrective wave this strong. It’s now or never. If we can’t recalibrate government now, the show is over for real, folks.

joe btfsplk on February 28, 2011 at 4:36 PM

Coming soon to America/2012,

The Great Common Sense Crusade!

canopfor on February 28, 2011 at 4:38 PM

Rubber Rooms Redux, Teachers Unions and Taxpayers
=================================================

It’s come to this: Grief counselors meeting with Democrats over election;
****************
****************

Update: Pelosi plans party to celebrate

Congress’s “accomplishments”
posted at 6:10 pm on November 8, 2010 by Allahpundit
====================================================

I don’t know what they’re so depressed about. With Nancy Pelosi back in charge, surely they’re only two years away from a new House majority.

Stage One isn’t anger, it’s denial.

Anger is Stage Two. Which makes me think that maybe this is actually a covert way of trying to torpedo Pelosi’s bid for minority leader.

(Her office says she wasn’t the one who sent the counselors.)

The only conceivable psychological explanation for why House liberals would want to retain her is that they’re stuck in Stage One; if the counselors can move them to Stage Two, then, just possibly, the healing can begin. We’ll know they’re on the track to “wellness” when they dump her and we start seeing more enraged rants about the “white right” and their “temper tantrum” online.

Exit question: What’s next, grief counselors for stressed-out mafia bosses? Oops!

Update: Going to be a long, long time before they’re off Stage One:
————–

http://hotair.com/archives/2010/11/08/its-come-to-this-grief-counselors-meeting-with-democrats-over-election/

canopfor on February 28, 2011 at 4:47 PM

I’m hard pressed to think of any other occupation where you can keep drawing full pay – sometimes for up to a decade, as the highlighted article points out – after those types of abuses. In fact, I don’t know of any others where you can keep getting paid even if your performance was exceptional but there simply wasn’t enough work for you.

Since the UAW has this feature in their contract, I would assume that every governmental employee union has it as well.

Vashta.Nerada on February 28, 2011 at 4:49 PM

In NY, the problem is not just the unions, it the legislation.

There are all kinds of crazy laws that don’t allow a teacher to be fired absent a hearing by the state department of education, which takes more than 1 year to hold the hearing. And, like all beauracrats, teh hearing officers tend not to uphold firings. And, you have to pay the teachers during the time you are waiting for the hearing to be held.

So, firing a teacher is very difficult to accomplish, for any reason.

I’ve never understood what justification there is for this. At teh college level, the argument is that professors need to be free from retribution for ideas, so that they can research and write unpopular ideas, etc. At least at the higher education level, an argument can be made that “academic freedom” is worth such rules.

But why is this needed for a sophmore history teacher? What controversial research and writing is a 10th grade math teacher engaged in?

There is no basis for k-12 teachers having more job security than any other employee at any other job.

Monkeytoe on February 28, 2011 at 4:50 PM

These are the same people that want more government because government is good. If government is good then why is a union for government employees necessary?

Rick9911 on February 28, 2011 at 4:53 PM

Anyone see how this could become a problem?

Chip on February 28, 2011 at 4:17 PM

Not if you’re a Marxist…

oldleprechaun on February 28, 2011 at 4:55 PM

I’m hard pressed to think of any other occupation where you can keep drawing full pay – sometimes for up to a decade, as the highlighted article points out – after those types of abuses.

Ever heard of a police union, Ed?

CTD on February 28, 2011 at 5:00 PM

turfmann on February 28, 2011 at 4:27 PM

Or let people choose. Give parents 90% vouchers to the school of their choice.

In less than 5 years, the worst schools will be closed and leased back to private schools.

I do think that we should have separate schools for special needs children. Private and public schools should be for teaching children that can and want to learn. There are children that developmentally disabled that cannot learn and will be forced to stay in a public setting.

barnone on February 28, 2011 at 5:03 PM

You know what? I got about one quarter into this missive (for those of you that are fraction challenged that is 1/4 or .25%) and I just wanted to vomit…

Babs on February 28, 2011 at 5:09 PM

Last night I saw Waiting for Superman. It was quite good and I recommend it.

Tzetzes on February 28, 2011 at 5:30 PM

I really don’t know what we can do about this. It seems the deck is stacked against us. The unions want our children to be uneducated so they can tell them what to think…

Babs on February 28, 2011 at 5:46 PM

The whole system of tenure in the public school system has lost its original intent. Once upon a time communities could fire their teachers at the end of the school year and rehire them (if they so chose) when the new year commenced at salaries that were pitiful. The other abuse was that school boards would fire teachers in order to emplace their relatives or friends into those positions.

These days teachers have very handsome salaries and labor laws protect educators from blatant abuses. Due process should be permitted to prevent vengeance by someone upset by a bad grade, for example.

Unfortunately, nowadays the public, which pays the freight for bad teachers, has to undertake ridiculously complex and expensive steps legally to muster out those rotten apples. Everyone suffers for this protection racket.

I’m seriously wondering when a course in ethics and school law was dropped by state teacher-certification boards. Don’t most states have laws that justify teacher firings these days?

onlineanalyst on February 28, 2011 at 5:51 PM

Last night I saw Waiting for Superman. It was quite good and I recommend it.

Tzetzes on February 28, 2011 at 5:30 PM

Did you see the part where Canada fired an entire class of 8th grade students for not performing up to par? The part where the school is essentially running on fumes now because it’s incredibly expensive per-student and the donations from people like Soros and groups like Goldman-Sachs have dried up? Or what about the part where parents need to jump through hoops to get their kids registered for the “lotteries”, and only the best of the best get selected? Of course not, because that would blow up the whole notion of Canada’s school being any better then a public school.

China and India lag behind us in general education because they direct almost all of their funding to the gifted students, while providing virtually no resources for the students who are most troubled. Canada’s model mirrors that, expensive education for the gifted, and less money left over for the underachievers. Besides, whose ever heard of a “public school” that can kick a student out for bad test results (which is what Canada does)?

Rainsford on February 28, 2011 at 5:51 PM

Canada sucks. What is new?

CWforFreedom on February 28, 2011 at 5:55 PM

As far as the NYC thing goes, Jazz Shaw is again missing the point. Are the rubber room teachers a problem? Sure, but most of them are ones with political connections. If you think that the state allowing Bloomberg to fire them will accomplish anything, it won’t. He would just fire younger, non-connected teachers instead. Remember, this is the guy who put the former president of USA Today in charge of the NYC school system.

Rather, what’s missed is that the district released the data on teachers being fired to pressure the State to not cut the education budget to the city. In 1975 the city had a similar plan to lay off 13,000 teachers, but eventually only let go of around 5,000. The school system is still in shambles today, with a deficit of senior teachers thanks to the generation gap left by the large-scale lay-offs, and chronic classroom overcrowding. The city wouldn’t dream of laying off 20,000 teachers, as that’s nearly a quarter of all NYC teachers, and would see some schools lose over half their teaching force (I assume no one here actually read the proposal).

The whole talk about seniority firing and stuff is also just bluster. Like I said, Bloomberg would never do it. The point is that the State is running out of money because those multi-millionaires in Manhattan have been making out like bandits, between favorable tax conditions and profiting off the economic collapse that many of them had hands in. Until we realize that we can’t keep rewarding them for failure our basic institutions will suffer.

Rainsford on February 28, 2011 at 5:57 PM

turfmann on February 28, 2011 at 4:27 PM

\

OK. And if things don’t come up to your standards (never heard what those are) what’s Plan B? Or will we never hear anything more about it down the road if things are more screwed up than ever?

Actually, I think what you outlined should be done everywhere-companies, police, fire, military. Incompetence is ubiquitous.

Dr. ZhivBlago on February 28, 2011 at 5:58 PM

Canada sucks. What is new?

CWforFreedom on February 28, 2011 at 5:55 PM

It appears as though you’re still fighting mental health. Good for you

darwin-t on February 28, 2011 at 5:59 PM

turfmann on February 28, 2011 at 4:27 PM

Or let people choose. Give parents 90% vouchers to the school of their choice.

In less than 5 years, the worst schools will be closed and leased back to private schools.

I do think that we should have separate schools for special needs children. Private and public schools should be for teaching children that can and want to learn. There are children that developmentally disabled that cannot learn and will be forced to stay in a public setting.

barnone on February 28, 2011 at 5:03 PM

My middle daughter has been accepted at the local charter high school starting this fall (one of the nation’s best high schools). There is no teacher’s union and the facility is about as ramshackle as can be imagined. The school is housed in an abandoned furniture store. There is nothing pretty about the classrooms – cables hang from exposed trusses, the place needs a paint job, the wooden floors haven’t been urathaned since forever.

But apparently the kids and the teachers are clicking. There are twice as many applicants as there are available seats. They are opening a new campus across the street in the fall, effectively doubling their enrollment – only to have the applications double!

Meanwhile, the local school system is b****ing about the amount of money that they have to surrender to the charter school and the local voc-tec school because so many kids are opting out of their system. They have NO clue at all!

For instance, there is an administrator in our school system that sends her kids to the local Catholic High School! There is a former school committee member that is prominently displayed with his family on the brochure of the same school! All the while, the teachers are upset with the parents because we complain about the fact that they want to send love letters of support to President Obama, and that that awful Sarah Palin is a moron. True story – except that I get to pay for it.

OK. And if things don’t come up to your standards (never heard what those are) what’s Plan B? Or will we never hear anything more about it down the road if things are more screwed up than ever?

Actually, I think what you outlined should be done everywhere-companies, police, fire, military. Incompetence is ubiquitous.

Dr. ZhivBlago on February 28, 2011 at 5:58 PM

I’ll tell you what. My great aunt and her niece raised my grandfather. Both women were one-room-schoolhouse teachers. My grandfather was the valedictorian of his high school class but never attended college. He was the kind of man that knew just about everything about everything. Any question you could conjure up, he would have something to offer. He was about as educated a man as I have ever met in my lifetime. Yet, there was no teacher’s union anywhere to be found in his education. And the room that he was educated in was probably smaller than the average teacher’s lounge in a modern school.

And I should also mention that my wife and I have pulled our kids out of public schools when things were beyond the pale and homeschooled them. Homeschooling is something that is so far outside of our comfort zone as to be ridiculous. No one, no one, homeschooled their kids when we were children. No one. Yet, we would join together with other families for activities and find 20 to 30 kids in the group! Pretty damning for the public school system.

turfmann on February 28, 2011 at 7:54 PM