- George Orwell - 1984
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
Why is NYC Paying 757 People to do Nothing?
Just before 9 a.m., they file into large, sometimes windowless rooms.
In some cases, they punch time cards; in others, they scribble their names on a sign-in sheet.
They take their places in plastic chairs either grouped around tables or scattered haphazardly.
Some immediately pull out crossword puzzles or books. Some knit. Others hold golf-putting contests. One takes out his guitar and strums.
One day last week, another, wearing a leotard and tights, spread out on the floor and stretched before practicing ballet against a wall in a corner.
Nearby, gazing out a window, a man slowly fell asleep, his head in his hands.
It's all in a day's work on the city payroll.
For seven hours a day, five days a week, hundreds of Department of Education employees - who've been accused of wrongdoing ranging from buying a plant for a school against the principal's wishes to inappropriately touching a student - do absolutely no work.
In an investigation inside the nine reassignment centers called "rubber rooms" where these employees are sent, The Post has learned that the number of salaried teachers sitting idly waiting for their cases to be heard has exploded to 757 this year - more than twice the number just two years ago - at a cost of about $40 million a year, based on the median teacher salary.
The city pays millions more for substitute teachers and employees to replace them and to lease rubber-room space.
Meanwhile, the 757 - paid from $42,500 to $93,400 a year - bring in lounge chairs to recline, talk on their cellphones and watch movies on portable DVD players, according to interviews with more than 50 employees.
David Pakter, 62, has been in a rubber room for a year for buying a plant for his school and giving students watches he'd made, he said.
The DOE would not discuss ongoing investigations.