Educator misconduct caseload steadies

Educator misconduct caseload steadies

(Calif.) After struggling many years with a big backlog of educator misconduct cases, the Commission on Teacher Credentialing reported this month that they are within the normal range of operations in terms of new cases and those being closed.

The total number of cases fell during the three months ending in October from 2,962 to 2,863, according to a report to the board. While those numbers represent a downward trend, it is still higher than 2016 when the caseload hit a low of 2,709.

The number of new cases opened has remained fairly steady at just over 500 reported in August, September and October of this year. Last year, however, there was another low in August when just 434 cases were opened.

One key area of concern also appears to be improving—the number of cases being closed by the state Attorney General’s office, which represents the CTC during the appeal process.

In October, 2017 the AG’s office closed 299 cases, which represents a significant improvement over the same period last year when 287 cases were closed.

As recently as March, 2016 lawmakers were growing anxious about the number of pending appeals cases and prompted the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown to provide the CTC $5.6 million in the 2017-18 budget specifically to bring down the backlog.

The Legislature also gave the agency authority to increase credentialing fees to help address the problem.

The commission, which serves as the state's standards board for teacher training and professional conduct, drew headlines in the summer of 2009 when auditors found more than 12,000 misconduct cases unprocessed.

Included in that backlog were less serious complaints that had been intentionally set aside, but officials also acknowledged inefficiencies in the manner that agency staff undertook investigations–especially on cases where violations were not likely to result in any disciplinary action.

A big part of the backlog problem came as a result of hundreds of cases being sent from Los Angeles Unified. Officials at LAUSD became concerned about oversight of educator conduct after a former elementary school teacher was arrested on 23 charges of sexual abuse.

The commission has also streamlined some of its policies to streamline disciplinary actions.

The CTC routinely processes about 5,400 misconduct cases annually. About one third of those are first-time alcohol infractions by teachers.

Although the commission has authority to suspend or revoke teacher credentials as a result of criminal behavior, first-time alcohol offenses typically do not generate agency discipline. But, until the board made changes to the system, precious staff time had to be spent researching and analyzing each case.

Under existing rules, an applicant or holder who is convicted of one misdemeanor alcohol related offense shall not be submitted to the Committee of Credentials for review. Instead, staff will close the matter and note the offense in the agency's discipline database.

But, if an applicant or holder has other acts of misconduct, staff will include the DUI offense when presenting the case to the Committee of Credentials.