Below is a press release from StudentsFirstNY, which relays reactions of New York City parents to the news that Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Fariña will force placements of 400 of the 882 teachers assigned to the Absent Teacher Reserve. The ATR is more popularly known as “the rubber room,” via Steven Brill’s 2009 New Yorker piece. (Memorable quote: “One school principal has said that Randi Weingarten of the teachers’ union would protect a dead body in the classroom.”) Teachers are placed in the ATR for disciplinary reasons or lay-offs but still get full pay with benefits because NY’s tenure rules bar outright dismissal. Chalkbeat reports that the cost of maintaining the teachers on the payroll was $151.6 million in the 2016-17 school year: “On average each ATR teacher received a total of $116,258 in salary and fringe benefits for the past school year,” far higher than average teachers’ compensation.
Principals, of course, are too happy about these forced placements. Said one Staten Island principal, “in the end, you want to be the one making the personnel decisions for your school.”
Here’s the press release:
Public school parents from low-income communities across Brooklyn joined with StudentsFirstNY to rally outside the Prospect Park YMCA, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s favorite weekday hangout spot. The reason? They want Mayor de Blasio to reconsider his new plan to force place teachers from the Absent Teacher Reserve back into the classroom. But instead of engaging with these concerned parents (and voters), Mayor de Blasio turned his back on them and drove away.
Earlier this month, Mayor de Blasio announced a change of policy that would result in the forced placement of 400 teachers from the ATR pool into schools across the city. For more than three years, the de Blasio Administration has promised that forced placement of teachers was not an option and that principals would be able to decide which teachers were hired into their schools. Now, without warning in the middle of summer, Mayor de Blasio has changed the policy. These parents from Fort Greene, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights and other Brooklyn communities are urging him to reconsider.
“Mayor de Blasio should skip the gym today and get back to work. If he wants a workout, he can burn some calories coming up with a better plan than forcing ATR teachers back into the classroom,” said StudentsFirstNY Organizing Manager Darlene Boston.
“We all know that Mayor de Blasio won’t be forcing ineffective teachers back into classrooms here in Park Slope. Nope, these unwanted teachers will end up in the public schools in my neighborhood,” said Crown Heights Public School Parent Monell Birkett. “Mr. Mayor, don’t do to my kids what you would never do to yours.”
“Principals have refused to hire teachers from the ATR for a reason, but now the Mayor is forcing these unwanted teachers back into the classroom. Mayor de Blasio is putting students last,” said Bedford-Stuyvesant Public School Parent Nicole Thomas.