NYC to Stop Paying Teachers to Do Nothing

NEW YORK  -- The city and the teachers' union have worked out a deal to stop putting hundreds of teachers waiting for disciplinary hearings in "rubber rooms," and will close the centers this fall, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press on Thursday.

Officially known as teacher-reassignment centers, rubber rooms are off-campus spaces where hundreds of teachers are paid their full salaries to do nothing while they await disciplinary hearings.

The person familiar with the decision said Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration and the teachers' union were to announce the deal later Thursday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement had not been made.

More than 600 teachers generally spend months or even years in the rubber rooms playing Scrabble, reading or surfing the Internet. The nickname refers to the padded cells of asylums, and teachers have said the name is fitting, since some of the inhabitants can become unstable.

The department has blamed union rules that make it difficult to fire teachers, but some teachers assigned to rubber rooms charge that they have been singled out because they blew the whistle on a principal who was fudging test scores.

Because the teachers collect their full salaries of $70,000 or more, the city Department of Education estimated last year that the practice was costing the taxpayers $65 million a year.