Monday, March 29, 2010

Just What New York Needs? Rubber Rooms For All?

The NYC Department of Education rubber rooms are a disgrace and a waste of taxpayer money as teachers who are awaiting disciplinary action and can't be directly fired get to wallow away in a nondescript office building collecting paycheck after paycheck. It's a system that has to be changed, if not eliminated, so that more money can be directed into classrooms rather than into bad teachers' pay.

So, instead of looking to abolish this system, New York Assembly Democrats want to expand this nonsense to all state workers.
The bill, introduced by Governmental Employees Chairman Peter Abbate Jr. (D-Brooklyn) -- who proudly proclaims himself "the unions' bulldog" -- would nix in-house disciplinary proceedings for all state civil servants accused of wrongdoing by their employers.

Instead, workers would be entitled to a binding ruling by an "independent" arbitrator approved by both the employer and the employee.

The bill makes no provision to break a stalemate, suggesting a dispute could drag on indefinitely.

The legislation would also ban state and local governments from suspending workers without pay while the arbitration process plays out. An exception would be made only for those accused of sale or possession of drugs.

The provisions mirror the state's "rubber room" law, which makes it nearly impossible to fire tenured teachers and has led the Department of Education to warehouse some 675 unwanted teachers in so-called reassignment centers daily at a cost of $40.5 million last year.

"By protecting civil-service employees from being suspended without pay during such procedures, this bill conforms [to] disciplinary hearing procedures brought against tenured teachers . . . thus ensuring the same due process for civil-service employees," reads Abbate's official explanation of the bill.

Critics fear the Abbate measure could prevent municipalities from purging untold numbers of problem workers from the payroll -- effectively creating "rubber rooms" across all sectors of government.
There are so many problems with this proposed legislation that it should be canned indefinitely. Instead of reforming the rubber room law for teachers, Abbate wants to expand it to all state workers, which is insanity at a time when the state can't afford to keep good teachers, let alone continue paying bad teachers to not work.

If you want to streamline the disciplinary process there are a few easier methods.

For starters, those accused of felonies - especially in connection with the terms of their employment - would be subject to expedited hearings and action taken within a set period of time. Those accused of misdemeanors would also get expedited hearings.

Those accused of wrongdoing in connection with their jobs would be subject to pay restrictions until their situation is resolved by a third party arbitrator.

In no case should anyone be subject to a rubber room for more than 2 months.

It might take some additional time to clear the existing backlog for teachers - requiring the hiring of additional arbitrators to work through the cases, but it will end up being cheaper than trying to keep these teachers in the rubber rooms indefinitely which is the case at present.

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