'Rubber Rooms' Kissing Cousin: New York City's Absent Teacher Reserve Program

Posted: Jan 20, 2012 12:01 AM

New York City government schools have had some pretty outrageous policies. Rubber rooms were a great example. They were special places created for teachers accused of crimes, incompetence and the like. Due to state tenure laws, it actually cost less to house the failed teachers in a location where they couldn’t inflict more damage on students, than to go through the lengthy and expensive legal process necessary to fire them.

Thanks Big Labor!

Now New York administrators are trying to deep-six a program created a few years ago in the collective bargaining agreement with the United Federation of Teachers: the Absent Teacher Reserve.

What’s this? A creation of bureaucrats, politicians and labor bosses, the ATR is comprised of teachers who literally have no classroom for one reason or another. Due to a labor contract stipulation, they can’t be fired or laid off, and continue to draw the same salaries as full-time teachers. They’re put into the ATR pool, where they may be assigned to work as substitutes, clerks, or perhaps to do nothing at all.

They’re clearly not needed, and collectively they make a great deal of money. How’s that for management of taxpayer dollars?

Joel Klein, the former chancellor of New York City schools, estimated the elimination of this program would save the city an incredible $100 million a year.

According to DNAinfo.com:

“Until recently, the city allowed ATR teachers to remain at a posting for a full school term, during which the school principal could decide whether to hire them. That changed with the weekly reassignments, which went into effect in October as part of a deal with the United Federation of Teachers to avert layoffs.

“The department says this is a fairer and more efficient way for the castoffs to find new jobs. The regular reshuffling gives them more opportunities to impress more potential bosses, officials say.”

This – once again – raises the all-important question: are schools designed to meet the developmental needs of children or the employment needs of adults? These folks did not make the cut the first time around, for one reason or another. Yet the union insists on wasting precious resources on them, and shuffling them out for repeated auditions for jobs they are probably not qualified for. Shouldn’t we be putting the best and brightest in front of our students? Oh, silly me. This is the public sector.

Is there any business in the private sector that operates like this? The car companies used to have the Job Bank – a similar program for “displaced” workers – but that was done away with because it cost millions and was highly ineffective.

The ATR is no different. We can’t expect school tax dollars to be put to the best possible use when politicians lack the intestinal fortitude to do away with ridiculous, ineffective programs like this.