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The Detroit version of the rubber room and reserve pool

City school officials are fond of complaining about the holding pens where teachers who are either unable to find jobs in the system or who are accused of incompetence sit, receiving full pay but not working, sometimes for as long as three years. I’ve often heard critics say that these pens, known as the rubber rooms and the Absent Teacher Reserve, would never be tolerated in any other industry.

Except, apparently, the American auto industry.

Here’s part of a recent New Yorker story about Detroit’s collapse that caught my eye (transcribed and emphasized by me, rather than cut and paste, because the magazine doesn’t make that possible):

The situation that Corker referred to was the industry’s infamous ‘jobs bank’ program, which dated back to an agreement that G.M. had made with its workers in 1984. … The U.A.W., sensing potential job losses, won a contract provision designed to discourage layoffs: displaced workers were shifted to a jobs bank, drawing full benefits and nearly full pay. They were not obliged to seek other jobs, and, as the Detroit News reported a few years ago, many of them spent their days working on crossword puzzles at the local union hall.

Obviously, this isn’t a perfect comparison, since, in schools, it can be a very tricky thing to figure out which workers to keep and which to lay off. While some teachers inside the rubber rooms are probably truly incompetent, others could be — as teachers union activists will say — innocent victims of principal harassment.

Here’s a reproduction of the original Detroit News story.

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