Sunday, December 19, 2004

Why urban public schools fail: Department of Insane Job Protection.

NY Post (not on line):

Axed teachers still get $23 million from New York City

New York City is spending $23 million a year to house teachers in regional offices as they await the outcome of disciplinary procedures against them, Mayor Bloomberg said yesterday.

He claimed the city is forced to keep paying the 310 or so teachers -- in some cases for years -- because the union contract prohibits the city from moving quickly to resolve allegations against them.

The average salary of the teachers is $70,000 and the amount paid to them is enough to run a high school of 3,000 students.

"For $23 million a year they sit around doing nothing", Bloomberg said on his weekly radio show. "We can't put them in a classroom, but we have to keep them."...

The mayor referred to the front-page story in yesterday's Post about a music teacher at Franklin K. Lane high school accused of having a three-year affair with a student that started when she was 14 years old ... The teacher, Barry Shenker, has been assigned to a regional office in Queens -- sometimes called a "rubber room" -- and will collect full salary until disciplinary procedures are completed, which may take years.

"One of the things we've said to the teachers union is, 'Give us the ability to expeditiously, not over one or two years, get rid of bad teachers'."

United Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten said the union is open to the idea of suspending without pay teachers accused of egregious behavior, but insisted there must be a fair process. She said she has proposed a plan to expedite grievance hearings but the city has rejected the offer. Her plan called for the city and the union to appoint a special master to hear cases within six months of being reported...
Ah, so to the union six months to hear the case of a teacher alleged to be having sex with a student is expedited.

Imagine having a child of your own in a private school to which you are paying $12,000 per year tuition -- what taxpayers pay per student to the NYC public schools -- and that you and other parents learn a teacher there is having an affair with one of your daughters.

So you approach the school principal and ask what will be done. And the principal replies: "I and the teacher's representative will get together to pick someone to look into the facts in six months..."

On Thursday the Post reported that a Bronx chemistry teacher spent an estimated 12 years in "rubber rooms" since 1989 -- awaiting outcomes of numerous disciplinary charges. He was found guilty earlier this month of harassing students at the Bronx High School of Science...
Oh, well, I guess compared to 12 years, six months is expedited!

In a letter to principals this week, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein said the process for firing incompetent teachers is "entirely broken", with "Kafkaesque" procedures protecting the unfit ...
The Chancellor is very right that this is not just about being unable to fire a few teachers who are grievous offenders. It's about lack of accountability for basic standards of fitness and performance all the way through the system -- as was previously related here in the words of a NYC public school teacher in much more detail. With that reality, it's hardly surprising how these cases happen over and over.

Oh well, at least when school system employees are caught not doing nothing when that's what they are actually supposed to be doing, they can be fired. Go figure.

Follow-up: An inner-city high school with a 98% graduation rate that spends about half as much per student as New York public schools is described by Diane Ravitch.