New York's Absent Teacher Reserve Hears Call to Action, Goes Back to Reading the Newspaper


New York City recently pledged to rid itself of the infamous rubber rooms where unemployed and unemployable teachers sat—sometimes for years—while accruing seniority and pay. But today The Wall Street Journal reports on a scam even sweeter than sitting around in a room doing nothing all day for pay—sitting around wherever you want doing nothing all day for pay.

A majority of New York City teachers who lost their positions at schools earlier this year have neither applied for another job in the system nor attended any recruitment fairs in recent months, according to data released by the Department of Education Thursday.

The city spends about $100 million a year on 1,800 teachers currently in the pool who don't have full-time teaching gigs. In theory, these teachers, some of which have been enjoying this ride since 2006, are part of a reserve corps of teachers who can be called up at a moment's notice to fill vacancies and do substitute teaching: The Absent Teacher Reserve. (Notice that Reason magazine gets along fine without retaining a reserve corps of bloggers ready to spring into action at a moment's notice.)

But there are 1,200 vacancies in the system. While 59 percent of the teachers haven't applied to any jobs through the official system, the rest are presumably being rejected by principals, even with union-negotiated arrangements that put outsiders at a distinct disadvantage.

Who cares what unemployed teachers are up to, you say? Well, there's this:

New York is the only city in the country where teachers are guaranteed pay for life even when their school closes and they are put out of a permanent job.