In Netflix’s new original series “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”, Kimmy comes across a tenured teacher who has no interest in teaching students, but instead is focused on getting into the “rubber room” (Absent Teacher Reserve – ATR).
1. “FIRED? I can’t get fired, I’ve got tenure!”
New York law requires school administrators to decide whether or not a teacher will be granted tenure after just three years on the job — and 97% of teachers get it.
This basically means they have a job for life, regardless of how well their students are learning. Thanks to complicated disciplinary procedures in New York, it’s virtually impossible to fire an ineffective, tenured teacher.
2. “If you’re too incompetent to teach, they send you here…the union calls it the ‘rubber room’.”
While the common name has become the “rubber room”, it’s actually called the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR). And while there are several different reasons a teacher may be sent there, an underperforming teacher will be kept there — with pay — while his or her individual case is being reviewed.
Currently NYC is spending $144 million a year on the ATR, paying for teacher who aren’t in a classroom.
(Read a story about NYC’s ATR in WorldMag and NY Post)
3. “You get paid to sit around all day until they figure out what to do with you. It takes YEARS!”
A teacher who is involved in a teacher dismissal hearing may be laced in the ATR. These teacher dismissal hearings can take as long as 830 days and cost as much as $313,000.
4. “They’re not gonna replace you. The school’s broke. They’ve been renting out the lockers as hotel rooms for Japanese businessmen.”
Though we haven’t heard of any Japanese businessmen sleeping in school lockers, it’s definitely true that when budget deficits result in job cuts, teacher layoffs are based on seniority, not job performance — by law.
New York’s ‘Last In-First Out’ (LIFO) statue allows senior, tenured teachers — regardless of their ability to teach students — to remain on the job while junior, even high-performing teachers must be laid off.
5. “You complain, I win. You fail, I win.”
Kimmy’s teacher knows that no matter what happens, he won’t be fired and will continue to earn his salary. A win for him, but a loss for Kimmy and every other student.
Three in five teachers in New York’s ATR didn’t even submit a single job application to the city’s online hiring system in 2013 that would have put them back on the job. Maybe they don’t want to go back to a regular teaching job?
(Read more in the NY Post)
6. “Well, I’m not giving up!”
…and neither are we. We’re right there with you, Kimmy, fighting for our children’s education!