May 12, 2008


There's such a stink about teachers in the limbo of the Rubber Rooms getting paid for doing nothing. Articles have them sleeping, watching DVD's, learning to knit, etc. All true, but let's look at the whole picture. Not one teacher in any Rubber Room asked to be there. Not one. Too many written articles seem to suggest these teachers purposely put themselves in the Rubber Rooms in order to get paid for doing whatever they pleased. If this was true, any outrage would be understandable. But it's not true. I repeat, not one teacher in any Rubber Room asked to be there!

As for those activities: the card playing, the DVD watching, the knitting, the sleeping, etc. Let's say you're at the airport and your flight is cancelled. For some reason they can't tell you the time of the next departure. So, what do you do? You're stuck. Some people get angry and start screaming at the poor clerks, some people start talking to other passengers. There's nothing like a shared disaster to bring strangers together. So, you sit and you wait, and you try to make the best of your time. You read the paper, buy a paperback, do a crossword puzzle, turn on your laptop if you have it with you, or sleep, or talk--whatever--you're stuck. If the delay isn't long, you can laugh about it as you get on board. But if the delay stretches beyond a reasonable time-- then what do you do? There's nothing to laugh about now. You're stuck in a way you never imagined. The angry passengers are angrier. There's now more time to fill. So, you fill it any way you can and hope your flight leaves soon.

The Rubber Rooms are like that. These teachers are stuck. And it's more like a bus station than an airport. The rooms are small and overcrowded, and the clock keeps ticking, with nobody knowing when their hearing date will be coming up. They're stuck. What do you expect them to do? They would all welcome a quick hearing, but they have no control over anything that happens to them anymore. Their job is to wait. This is dictated by The Department of Education and the UFT, not the teachers themselves. And for that they get paid. They're stuck in a way they never imagined. And they're not stuck for days, many of them are stuck for years. So, they fill their time any way they can, and hope their hearings come soon.

I know of teachers who've asked if they could take classes. Being professionals they wanted to keep up with any changes, since the curriculum under Klein keeps shifting, as the Chancellor struggles to create a one-size-fits-all educational system. The Union representative said he would get back to them. Nobody got back to them. Nobody cares. The Union Reps go through the motions. They do what they have to do to make it seem as if they're doing something. After the first articles came out exposing the Rubber Rooms there were meetings and rallys. Randi Weingarten went personally to soothe those languishing in Rubber Rooms. She made them feel like something was going to be done. Nothing was done.

The teachers in the Rubber Rooms don't want to just sit around. The Klein Laws dictate that they do.

So, the next time your flight is delayed for hours, or days, imagine if the delay was a year, or two, or three, or more. Yeah, that wouldn't be much fun would it? Welcome, to the Rubber Room.

May 4, 2008


The Sunday Daily News recently published an extensive article on the Rubber Rooms. Most of it seemed pieced together from varied articles on the internet. Even the stats were old. It mentioned around 700 teachers in the Rubber Rooms: there are about a thousand now.

The article had a few sympathetic things to say about the torturous atmosphere of the Rubber Rooms, but then filled the rest of the article with the same old foggy defenses the DOE and Randi Weingarten of the UFT have used since this whole sorry mess was dragged out into the open. The DOE spouted its lie that they only exile teachers "if evidence suggests they're a danger to kids." If this were true no teacher in the Rubber Rooms would, or should, be allowed to return to the school system. As it is, many do return, but only after the DOE has done everything to demoralize and intimidate them. To have to lie exposes the fact that the DOE has no actual defense. The Klein Laws are artificial laws; why shouldn't their defense be artificial as well?

Randi Weingarten, again said the right thing. Referring to the Rubber Rooms, she said, "They're demoralizing, horrible places." But, as usual, there was no statement of action. Why are teachers being forced to spend years in these demoralizing, horrible places without the UFT fighting aggressively to get them the same rights that every citizen in the United States is supposed to have. Why do the DOE and the UFT find it so hard to work out a fair and just system.? Klein and Weingarten are both lawyers, so they know the artificial legality of this system they've pieced together. It's not fair, it's not just, and both parties should be ashamed of themselves for letting it continue.

April 16, 2008


I don't want to rehash articles about the Rubber Rooms. By now everyone interested knows what they are. There was "Class Dismissed" by Mara Altman in the Village Voice, and "Where Teachers Sit, Awaiting Their Fates" written by Samuel G. Freeman in The New York Times, and a scattering of other articles in other publications. If anyone's interested these articles are free floating on the internet. What I want to address here is how these articles have turned Klein into a prosecuting bully. He seems to think if he prosecutes enough teachers and finds them guilty, or, at least, hounds them into quitting or retiring, the Klein Laws and their casual disregard for any human rights, or feelings for that matter, will be redeemed. Since the articles began all deals are off. I know of one teacher who went through the entire hearing process just after the article in the Village Voice came out. All the evidence of the case had been reviewed and it was decided all the offense merited was a letter in the teachers file. At the end of the hearing the teacher was told to return to the classroom. The next morning the decision was rescinded. No reason was given. The DOE doesn't have to give reasons. That teacher is now suffering a second year in the Rubber Room. Hearings that used to take a few days now take fifteen.

Teachers are silenced, and their lawyers sit mute, while the DOE lawyers shout and abuse even their own witnesses if the witnesses don't say what they want to hear. One teenage girl was recently brought to tears after 43 minutes of badgering by the DOE lawyer. She said the teacher was innocent. She said she didn't want to lie. She didn't know the DOE finds no teacher innocent, and that lies are the only way to find every teacher guilty. 43 minutes and the Union lawyer never protested. 43 minutes and the arbitrator never interfered. 43 minutes until the teenager broke down completely. Why was this child allowed to be abused? Shouldn't everyone who allowed the abuse be put in a Rubber Room? Isn't that what Rubber Rooms are for?

We should be grateful that the media finally paid attention to the plight of teachers trapped in the Rubber Rooms. But they can't stop there. They have to continue to expose the whole corrupt system and show it for what it is: a Kangeroo Court. Wikipedia gives a fitting description-"an elaborately scripted event intended to appear fair while having the outcome predetermined from the start." That is Klein's Law in a nutshell. The media can't just open a can of worms and walk away, especially since their exposure of the Rubber Rooms the DOE has tightened the noose around every teacher's neck. I've spoken to some of the teachers trapped in the Rubber Rooms, and all they're asking for is true justice and fairness. That New York City teachers should have to beg for these basic rights is an outrage. What does it take to make it news?

April 12, 2008


The Department of Education under Chancellor Klein ignores the Constitutional Rights of all teachers thrown into the rubber rooms. It's an appalling fact. Yet, the UFT doesn't confront the DOE in any meaningful manner. It isn't that Randi Weingarten, the president of the UFT, is unaware of what is going on, she wrote an insightful letter on January 15 of this year, that even sounded forceful. But forceful words, if not turned into action, are just hot air. While Randi sends forth an impotent wind of words, the DOE throws more and more teachers into the rubber rooms, intimidating and frightening them by enforcing the Klein Laws with increasing severity. Randi, who pursues her personal ambitions with dogged aggression, should use some of that aggression to protect and defend teachers being bullied by the DOE. At one rubber room conference she told the teachers to "hang in there" until Klein leaves office. The DOE throws down the gauntlet, and the UFT, the only defense these teachers have, tells them to just hide under the bed until the bad man goes away.

April 11, 2008


This morning, the New York Times carried a story about Credit Recovery, a program which allows high school students to graduate even though they've hardly attended classes. Three essays were all it took for one student, quoted in the article, to acquire enough credits to attain his diploma and stand alongside students who'd attended classes the whole year. The Schools Chancellor calls this a "legitimate and important strategy," and promises "If credit recovery isn't conducted properly, just as with any other required course we will take appropriate action." Uh huh. What does "properly" mean? Like the Klein Laws that govern the Rubber Rooms it means whatever Klein wants it to mean, because city officials admit that "credit recovery programs are neither centrally monitored nor tracked." But Klein, being a law unto himself, doesn't need all that to take "appropriate action." How do we know? Because he said so.

If three essays are a true assessment of the abilities of high school students, why are we forcing other students to spend months attending clasess, doing homework, taking tests? Set these students free. Let's use this legitimate and important strategy to relieve all students of the arduous strain of a full school year. Let them come in and do ten hours of of essay writing instead. Hey, if it works, it works.

I blame this whole mess on the fact that Klein doesn't know anything about education. And most of the people he's brought in to help him exert his ignorance with impunity aren't educators either. The wrong people have taken over the system. Sort of like what happened when Wolfowitz and Cheney shared a Think Tank together and had an epiphany: Attack Iraq and save the Middle East. They had to wait for 9/11, and a president who would listen and share their vision. Bush was their man, and then in came Rumsfeld. Although not one of these men had any military training, or any real knowledge of the region, they made the decisions for a war that we're still fighting. Intelligence without true knowledge is no better than stupidity. Klein should've educated himself first before attempting to educate others. Or maybe he spent ten hours writing three essays and thought that gave him all the knowledge he needed.

April 10, 2008


The Rubber Rooms where teachers are forced to vegetate for indeterminate periods of time because they've been accused of a variety of crimes, some of them serious, but many of them mere misdemeanors in any other legal system, continue to flourish. Why?

Constitutional Law is the bedrock of our legal system. School Chancellor Joel Klein is fully aware of this since he once argued Constitutional Law in front of the Supreme Court. So, why does he flout the very same laws he once defended so well?

First, The Department Of Education, under his supervision, takes "Everyone is considered innocent until proven guilty" and stands it on its head. Everyone is guilty; no one is ever innocent. Teachers have gone through the normal legal system, have been found innocent, yet thrown back into the Rubber Room by the DOE. Is this fair? Is this justice? And what abut Double Jeapordy? Isn't there a Constitutional law concerning that? Klein, once the defender of Constitutional Law, now disregards them. The Constitution guarantees fundamental fairness, justice, and liberty. Why is Klein allowed to put himself above the law? There have been cases when arbitrators (the systems impartial(?) judges have decided in favor of a teacher and because the DOE didn't agree, the teacher was thrown back in the rubber room. The Klein Laws, are different from Constitutional Law. The Klein Laws don't care about the rights of the individual, they don't care "that a punishment must not by it's severity be degrading to human dignity," or in avoiding "a severe punishment that is inflicted in wholly arbitrary fashion." Klein rules the Rubber Rooms like a mean-spirited dictator, taking pride in destroying the lives of teachers. Hardly a proper role model for the children of this city.

The Klein Laws have two defenses.
One is a lie, the other is meant to prejudice the outsider. The first defends the system by insisting that all the teachers in the Rubber Rooms are damaged people who cannot be trusted around children. This was put forth by John Stossel on TV, and Klein himself promotes this myth by loudly advertising the worst cases. Now, this is an outright lie, and the fact that Klein's main defense is a lie, exposes the falsehood his entire system rests on.

Let's look at defense number two. It's not really a defense of the Klein Laws, but something to shutdown all complaints. The teachers in the Rubber Rooms are getting paid. Even the Union lawyers will use this when listening to complaints. "You're getting paid, aren't you?" The unspoken part of this statement is "So, shut up already." Taking this thinking a step further, if we give the prisoners on Guantanamo salaries, the question of torture need never come up. Right? Bush, like Klein, can just say sure there's questionable treatment going on, but hell, they're getting paid aren't they?

While we're on the subject of money. Many teachers are allowed back in the classrooms if they pay fines. Yes, these dangerous criminals that must be kept away from children at any cost, can return to the classroom for... $4,000, $8,000? Criminal Law calls this extortion.

EXTORTION: Extortion is a criminal offense whereby an individual obtains money, goods and services, or desired behavior from another by wrongfully threatening or inflicting harm to his person, property, or reputation. The property gained through extortion is handed over to avoid threatened force or harm. Extortion involves the victims consent, but the way it is gained is unlawful, and therefore the entire act is considered a crime. So, you want to return to the classroom? Just see the cashier on your way out of the Rubber Room.

Before signing off I have one last question: The Civil Liberties Union is nobly defending the possible terrorists in Guantanamo. Why aren't they also defending New York school teachers who are also trapped and are being treated unfairly and unjustly? Isn't the mistreatment of New York School teachers as important as the mistreatment of possible terrorists?