Several New York papers reported this year on the more than 700 public-school teachers being paid full salary to sit idly in [one of thirteen] facilities known informally as "rubber rooms" and do nothing until an arbitration board can review accusations of misconduct against them. The board of education won't permit the teachers to interact with students while charges are pending (even for offenses as trivial as buying a potted plant for the classroom without the principal's approval), but union contracts prevent them from doing administrative work, and the overloaded arbitrators convene at most once a week, so accused teachers wind up spending months or even years reading, writing, watching TV, knitting, practicing their putting, etc., at an estimated cost of up to $40 million.
Chuck Shepherd, Chicago Reader, November 15, 2007.
I will say that this NYTimes article, by education writer and journalism professor Samuel G. Freedman, is worth reading. Some excerpts:
The room in question was about 1,100 square feet and on blueprints submitted to the Fire Department was designed to hold 26 people. On this day, it contained upward of 75. It had no windows, no land phone, no Internet access, no wall decorations, not even a clock. Any personal belongings left overnight were removed by custodians.
Some of the occupants faced criminal charges like assault, while others had been brought up by city education officials for termination due to incompetence or other causes. Still more, including Mr. Valtchev, had not yet received a formal letter specifying any allegation. Until their cases are resolved, which can take years, all are required to spend the 181 days of the school year in the rubber room.
And although the teachers there receive their full salaries, the stale, spartan conditions and the absence of any physical or intellectual stimulation provide a ceaseless reminder that in some respects they are guilty until proved innocent.
“There is a spirit of the K.G.B. about it,” Mr. Valtchev said in an interview on Monday. “Their main strategy is to destabilize the person, reduce his self-respect...
“Even in the penal system,” said Ms. Cohen, a veteran of more than 240 days in the rubber room, “they permit rehabilitation.”