Editorial: Rubber Rooms Redux?

Mayor Bloomberg thought he had a deal with the teachers’ union bosses three years ago, when City Hall and the United Federation of Teachers agreed on plan to expedite hearings for teachers accused of criminal behavior or thought to be incompetent. The UFT seemed to be downright ashamed by revelations that teachers awaiting hearings were dispatched for months on end to so-called rubber rooms, where they sat around and did nothing while drawing fully pay.

The rubber-rooms scandal has passed and—what a surprise—so, too, has the UFT’s willingness to cooperate with City Hall. The mayor has filed suit against the union, charging that it has reneged on its agreement. As a result, Mr. Bloomberg said, about 400 teachers are awaiting disciplinary hearings—and that figure doesn’t take into account an additional 150 new cases added to the backlog since school opened a month ago.

The UFT is stalling, because the bosses anticipate a far friendlier City Hall beginning on Jan. 1, 2014. Regrettably, that’s a pretty shrewd calculation. It’s also unbelievably cynical for an organization that claims to have the best interests of children in mind.

As he heads into the home stretch of his 12-year tenure in City Hall, Mr. Bloomberg must loudly remind the city that education reform simply can’t happen, not to the degree that is so clearly necessary, as long as the UFT continues to demand that lousy teachers remain in our classrooms.

It’s a message we need to keep in mind when pro-union candidates blather about their commitment to educational excellence.