Hundreds of New York City teachers who are paid full salaries to do nothing while they await disciplinary hearings will be released from the city's "rubber rooms" this fall.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the teachers' union announced a deal on Thursday that will reassign most of the teachers to administrative or nonclassroom work while their cases are pending.
Paying teachers full salary and operating the temporary reassignment centers have cost the city tens of millions of dollars a year.
The city says 650 educators, mostly teachers, are in the rubber rooms today. Some have spent years in the centers playing Scrabble, reading or surfing the Internet.
School officials have blamed union rules that make it difficult to fire teachers. Teachers have said they are singled out unfairly.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
NEW YORK (AP) — The city and the teachers' union have worked out a deal to stop putting hundreds of teachers waiting for disciplinary hearings in "rubber rooms" and will close the centers this fall, two people familiar with the decision told The Associated Press on Thursday.
Officially known as teacher-reassignment centers, the so-called rubber rooms are off-campus spaces where hundreds of teachers are paid their full salaries to do nothing while they await disciplinary hearings.
Two people familiar with the decision said Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration and the teachers' union were to announce the deal later Thursday. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement had not been made.
More than 600 teachers generally spend months or even years in the rubber rooms playing Scrabble, reading or surfing the Internet. The nickname refers to the padded cells of asylums, and teachers have said the name is fitting, since some of the inhabitants can become unstable.
The department has blamed union rules that make it difficult to fire teachers, but some teachers assigned to rubber rooms charge that they have been singled out because they blew the whistle on a principal who was fudging test scores.
Orlando Ramos, who spent seven months in a rubber room in 2004-05, said he was ecstatic to hear they would be closing.
"We want to coach those that are not prepared for this profession to move on. However, we also want justice for those who have been accused of wrongdoing," Ramos said. "The rubber room has been the wrong answer for so long."
Ramos, who is now a middle school principal in San Jose, was an assistant principal in East Harlem when he was accused of lying at a hearing on whether to suspend a student. Ramos denied the allegation but quit before his case was resolved and moved to California.
David Suker, a teacher who is currently assigned to a rubber room in Brooklyn, said teachers there were waiting Thursday to hear details about how the system will be dismantled.
"It's just another typical day in terms of powerlessness," Suker said.
Because the teachers collect their full salaries of $70,000 or more, the city Department of Education estimated last year that the practice was costing the taxpayers $65 million a year.
Associated Press writer Karen Matthews contributed to this story.
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