Arthur Goldstein is a veteran New York City high school teacher and blogger.

He went slightly ballistic when he read an op-ed article in The New York Times by Marc Steinberg, who became an instant principal during the Bloomberg-Klein regime and left to join the rightwing billionaire Walton Family Foundation, as director of its K-12 program. The Waltons despise public education and spend hundreds of millions backing charters, vouchers, and other modes of privatization. The WFF claims credit for funding one of every four charter schools in the nation. The Waltons individually spend millions on political campaigns to support privatization and undermine the teaching profession. They are avowed enemies of public education, the teaching profession, and collective bargaining.

Sternberg was a golden boy in the Bloomberg-Klein era. He graduated Princeton in 1995, joined Teach for America, picked up an MBA and MA in education at Harvard. Only nine years after finishing college, he was a principal in New York City. He quickly became a Klein favorite and moved up to become Deputy Chancellor in a few short years.

Now, at the pinnacle of rightwing power, with hundreds of millions to dispense every year, what really annoys him is that Mayor de Blasio plans to place hundreds of displaced teachers into classrooms. These are the teachers known as the “Absent Teacher Reserve,” where teachers are assigned when they have been accused of misconduct but are still awaiting a hearing or where they have been placed because their school was closed and they haven’t found a new job. Why haven’t they found a new job? If they are experienced, their salaries are at the high end of the salary scale, and principals don’t want to hire a permanent teacher whose salary is $90,000 instead of two young teachers for $45,000 each.

[ADDITION: Arthur Goldstein wrote at the end of the day to tell me I had confused “the rubber room” and the “Absent Teacher Reserve.” He explained:

[ATR teachers are not rubber room teachers. Rubber room teachers are those who are awaiting hearings. They don’t have rubber rooms anymore, so those teachers are placed in offices or schools. We had one in our school last year. He was given a job running our tutoring room.

[Teachers facing charges are generally not allowed to teach….ATR teachers are often displaced from schools. Some of them have been through hearings. They may have been found guilty on minor charges and fined. None of them have been found unfit. Had they been found unfit they would have been fired.]

As it happens, a friend of mine lost his job when the large school where he taught was closed and replaced by five or six small schools. He has a Ph.D. in history, but that didn’t help him find a new job. This highly educated, highly experienced teacher involuntarily became a permanent substitute, assigned to the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR), bounced from school to school in a humiliating fashion. Marc Sternberg considers him a “bad teacher,” although he was never given a bad rating as a teacher. Mayor de Blasio wants him to get a permanent job. Sternberg thinks he should be fired.

Arthur Goldstein responds here to Marc Sternberg:

“I’ve never been in the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR), so I can’t speak from experience here. My experience is limited to being an occasional substitute teacher, not one of my favorite things. I was in my school a few times this summer, and one day a secretary asked me to cover a class. I thought I’d maybe help out, so I asked, “Which class?”

“She told me she needed a teacher for a day, and that there were three classes, two hours each. I told her thanks but no thanks. Six hours is a long time to work as a substitute teacher. It’s far different teaching students you don’t know. A classroom culture takes time to build, but goes a long way.

“Now imagine that you’re an ATR teacher, and your stock in trade has been showing up and teaching whatever to whomever. Physics today, Chinese tomorrow. And then there are the principals, quoted in the press, who say how awful ATR teachers are. I’d only hire 5% of them, maybe, they say. And there are two issues with that.

“Issue number one, of course, is if I were teaching Chinese or physics, I’d be totally incompetent. I know virtually nothing about either. Even if a teacher were to leave me lessons all I could do would be follow instructions, watch the kids, and hope for the best. On this astral plane, I get lessons for subbing well less than half the time I do it. Sometimes I hear that ATRs should simply give lessons in their own subject areas. Mine is ESL, so it would be ludicrous to give such a lesson to native speakers. But even if I were to give one in ELA, imagine the reaction of a group of teenagers when a sub they will likely never see again gives a lesson on a different subject. And even if it’s the same subject, it’s ridiculous to compare the class culture of a regular teacher to one of a sub.

“Issue number two is that administrators, already overworked, now have to do at three to six observations for most teachers. If I were a principal, it would not be a high priority to observe teachers who were just passing through. I’m chapter leader of the most overcrowded and largest school in Queens. My job is nuts (and believe it or not, I’m not complaining). The principal’s job is crazier than mine. There is no time to fairly assess teachers who aren’t around very long. Frankly, I question where principals who cavalierly toss out percentages even find the time to look.

“I wonder if any writers who attack ATRs ever had or saw a substitute teacher. To compare a classroom with a culture, developed over time, with one led by a total stranger the students expect to never see again is preposterous. Watching hedge funded “Families for Excellent Schools” organize a dozen parents to protest the ATR is beyond the pale.

“This year things will be different for a lot of ATR teachers. The new plan is to place a whole lot of them, provisionally at least, in schools. You’d think that the people who bemoaned the cost of the ATR would be jumping for joy. By making teachers, you know, teach, they’re no longer throwing away all that city money they claimed to be so concerned about.

“To the contrary, they’re complaining. What if they’re no good? A parent wrote an op-ed in the Daily News saying she didn’t want her kid taught by them. Some guy on the Walmart payroll wrote virtually the same nonsense in the NY Times. You read in Chalkbeat about principals threatening to observe newly place ATRs to death. What ever happened to innocent until proven guilty, or incompetent, or at least something that merited a conversation?

“Let’s be frank here—it seems that ATR detractors simply want all of them fired without due process. That’s a slippery slope. We are all ATR teachers. It’s just a matter of being in the wrong place at the right time.

“Here’s something you won’t read in the papers—with the help of UFT and my administration, we’ve placed at least four ATR teachers permanently at Francis Lewis High School. Three are in my department, and one is an English teacher working mostly with ELLs. 100% of them are doing fine.

“ATRs need a chance, and Lord knows NYC kids need teachers. Yesterday, I counted 248 oversized classes in my school alone. It’s time for ATR critics to shut up until and unless they discover something worth talking about.”

Wouldn’t it be amazing if the Walton Family Foundation stopped acting as an echo chamber for Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos and began to use its billions to address the real problems of students and schools?