Wednesday, February 15, 2006

‘Teaching’ in the ‘rubber room’
Teacher Unions Are Killing the Public Schools

Bosses, have I got an idea for you: Don't pay your best employees more, don't ease out your least productive workers, and for crying out loud, never fire anyone, not even for the most blatant misconduct on the job.

It works for the public schools, doesn't it?

Actually, it doesn't, but since they're government monopolies, they don't care. They never go out of business. They just keep doing what they're doing, year after year, churning out class after class of students handicapped by a poor education.

Don't get me wrong -- not all public school teachers are bad. Many are talented and passionate, even heroic. Many turn down better-paying jobs because they want to help kids learn. But working hard for public-school students has to be its own reward, because a lazy teacher is paid just as much as a good one -- more if he has seniority…


One New York teacher decided that one of his 16-year-old students was hot. So he sat down at a computer and sent a sexual e-mail to Cutee101.

"He admits this," said [New York City public school Chancellor Joel] Klein. "We had the e-mail."


"You can't fire him?"


"It's almost impossible."


It's almost impossible because of the rules in the New York schools' 200-page contract with their teachers. There are so many rules that principals rarely even try to jump through all the hoops to fire a bad teacher. It took six years of expensive litigation before the teacher who wrote Cutee101 was fired. During those six years, he received more than $300,000 in salary.


"Up, down, around, we've paid him," said the chancellor. "He hasn't taught, but we've had to pay him, because that is what is required under the contract."


Hundreds of teachers the city calls incompetent, racist, or dangerous have been paid millions.


And what do they do while they get paid? They sit in rubber rooms.


They're not really made of rubber, of course. They are big, empty rooms where they store the teachers they are afraid to let near the kids. The teachers go there and sit, hang around, read magazines, and waste time. The city pays $20 million a year to house teachers in rubber rooms.


A new union contract is supposed to make it easier to fire teachers for sexual infractions, but the Byzantine rules for other offenses remain. Insane as most are, some teachers told me they support the firing rules. "You prove I'm a bad teacher!" said one. "And if you can't prove it, don't try it!"…

"Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe."
H. G. Wells

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