CIVIC CENTER — The city is suing the teacher's union for failing to shut down the so-called rubber rooms for teachers under investigation of wrongdoing, the mayor said Friday.
Speaking on WOR’s John Gambling show on Friday morning, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city and the United Federation of Teachers reached an agreement in 2010 to create a process to eliminate the backlog of teachers accused of wrongdoing who were taken out of the classroom while they awaited disciplinary hearings.
A core piece of the agreement was to increase the number of arbiters who handled the disputes between the city and the teacher union officials from 23 to 39.
But according to the mayor, the union has refused to come to the table to negotiate, violating the agreement and keeping the rubber rooms open.
“They’ve been going for the last few years, year after year. They just keep delaying. The backlog keeps getting bigger,” Bloomberg said during the radio interview. “And it just prevents having a fair hearing for teachers who should be cleared of any charges. It allows teachers who should not be in front of our kids through incompetence or inappropriate conduct to continue collecting a paycheck.”
Bloomberg said the lawsuit was filed in state Supreme Court on Thursday, asking a judge to order the UFT to "participate in good faith" in selecting the maximum number of arbiters agreed upon in 2010.
In a statement, UFT president Michael Mulgrew called the lawsuit by the Bloomberg administration "typical."
"The administration mismanages the disciplinary process, and in its last days tries to blame someone else for it," Mulgrew said. "It’s a shame the mayor is wasting public resources on this frivolous lawsuit, but we can all take comfort from the fact that Bloomberg will soon be only a bad memory to the people who care about schools."
In the court filing, the city claimed approximately 400 cases were backlogged because of the union's intransigence.
Footing the bill for teachers accused of misconduct cost $8 million for the 2012-2013 school year, according to the Department of Education.
“We’ve got a small number of teachers who are not up to the job and should not be in front of our kids. And they hurt the reputation of the vast majority of the teachers who are doing a spectacular job,” Bloomberg said.