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Agreement Reached To Eliminate 'Rubber Rooms'

Under a new agreement announced on April 15, "rubber rooms," where teachers in New York City accused of misconduct or incompetence are assigned pending resolution of their cases, will be eliminated.

New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein and UFT president Michael Mulgrew announced the agreement, under which most teachers accused of misconduct or incompetence will be assigned to perform administrative work in New York City Department of Education offices or given non-classroom duties in their schools while their cases are resolved.

"The rubber rooms are a symptom of a disciplinary process that has not worked for anyone—not the kids, not the schools and not the teachers," says Mulgrew, who is also an AFT vice president. "This agreement is designed to get teachers out of the rubber rooms and to ensure that they do not have to wait for months or years to have their cases heard."

Currently, some 550 teachers are assigned to these rubber rooms, costing the city $30 million each year. Using this new process, cases that once may have lasted several years will now be resolved within a few months. After removing a teacher from the classroom, the department will have 10 days to file incompetence charges or 60 days to file misconduct charges, depending on the nature of the case.

If reassigned teachers accused of misconduct are not charged within the 60-day window, they will be returned to their classrooms. Similarly, teachers accused of incompetence who are not charged within 10 days of reassignment will also return to their schools. Investigations can continue after a teacher is back in the classroom, however, and the teacher may still face charges.

"The rubber rooms were the result of a broken and protracted teacher discipline process. This deal goes a long way in improving the way the union and the department deal with teachers accused of and charged with wrongdoings," Klein says. "We are committed to adhering to the timetables outlined in the new agreement, and confident that in the end our kids will benefit from this better process."

While the agreement will not take effect until the start of the 2010-11 school year in September, the department and the UFT have agreed to begin immediately addressing the backlog of cases of teachers now in rubber rooms, with the goal of resolving all current cases by December.

More information is available on the UFT Web site. [UFT press release]

April 16, 2010