Marketplace Scratch Pad

Getting paid not to teach

Scott Jagow May 6, 2009

Wasting taxpayers’ money certainly isn’t the special province of the Treasury Department. The LA Times reveals that 160 teachers in the Los Angeles public school system are getting paid to do absolutely nothing. They’ve all been accused of some kind of misconduct, but at least one of the teachers whose case is unresolved has been getting paid for seven years.

From today’s LA Times story:

The housed are accused, among other things, of sexual contact with students, harassment, theft or drug possession. Nearly all are being paid. All told, they collect about $10 million in salaries per year — even as the district is contemplating widespread layoffs of teachers because of a financial shortfall.

Most cases take months to adjudicate, but some take years.

The Times says legally, it’s extremely difficult for the district to fire teachers, who are union-protected.

It’s a problem in other districts as well. Probably the first story about this came from Radio Diaries on the public radio program, This American Life, last year.

The program told the story of little-known rooms in the New York City school district, known as Rubber Rooms. Hundreds of teachers spend their school hours sitting there, waiting for their cases to be resolved, at a cost of $35 million a year.
The violations range from the ones mentioned above to unpaid parking tickets, “perceived incompetence,” and excessive lateness.

Radio Diaries is working with some filmmakers to produce a documentary about the Rubber Rooms. They have a website with more information.

Obviously, these teachers are owed due process. But come on, death row adjudication moves faster in some states.

Based on the hundreds of comments on the LA Times investigation, I’d say there’s a fair amount (and fair) outrage about this.

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