LA’s misconduct cases adding to CTC’s budget uncertainty

Already saddled with a major reorganization, significant budget cuts and staff reductions, the Commission on Teacher Credentialing now also faces a sudden uptick in workload generated by districts scouring cases of unreported misconduct.

The unanticipated demands come on the heels of several highly-publicized misconduct cases out of Los Angeles Unified in recent weeks which prompted Superintendent John Deasy to order a review and re-reporting to the state going back four years.

That action, as well as the expectation of similar responses by other districts, could add thousands of additional hours in investigative and processing time for CTC staff.

But Mary Vixie Sandy, the agency's new executive director, said the extra work in the disciplinary unit isn't her only problem.

Although the governor's January budget includes CTC fee increases on examinations and credentialing services - there's still a $5 million shortfall that could require the elimination of 17 positions.

Sandy said in an interview this week that she is growing increasingly concerned about the agency's ability to deal not only with escalating misconduct cases but also with the critically important work related to ensuring teacher preparation programs are functional and up-to-date.

It is going to be extremely challenging to meet all of our workload expectations given the projected resources that we are looking at right now," said Sandy. "But we are also optimistic that we can make that case though the Legislative budget process."

The budget dilemma will be brought back to the commission itself at next week's March meeting.

The governor's budget plans, along with the developments out of Los Angeles, are expected to be the top items of discussion.

The CTC, mandated as the arbiter of professional integrity and quality, also investigates allegations of misconduct and can act to invalidate credentials.

The review of LAUSD personnel files was ordered after disclosure that a substitute teacher who had resigned from the district following a sexual-abuse charge was later hired at a nearby district and the prior charge was never reported to the state.

The CTC processes about 5,400 misconduct cases annually. Expectations are that the new review generated by LAUSD could cause that workload to jump by 15 percent to 25 percent.

"We are beginning to see additional reports from L.A. come through the door and staff is anticipating there could be significantly more than we have seen in the past," Sandy explained. "L.A. may be the first of many districts to go back and revisit their own work in this area."

The CTC, with a staff of about 160, is one of the few state agencies funded entirely without general fund money. Because of teacher layoffs and falling enrollments at education training programs, the commission's revenues have dropped off steeply during the past three years.

Sanctioned by the commission in December, the governor included in his budget plans to increase teacher credentialing fees by $15 to $70 beginning in 2012-13 - a hike that is expected to generate $3 million in additional revenue.

The governor also proposed increasing testing fees next year by 5 percent - a move that would generate another $500,000.

But the governor's plan also calls for the elimination of staff - which will hit the CTC's Professional Services Division especially hard.

That division is charged with ensuring educator preparation programs meet California standards. There are about 35 or 40 evaluations performed each year.

But even more critical right now, the division is engaged in an evaluation of the current set of teacher preparation standards - some of which are based on work from the mid-1990s.

The update, being led by an advisory panel, is expected to reflect recent developments in education, including emphasis on science and technology; college-career ready standards; and increased use of technology in the classroom, including online learning as well as refined strategies for working with English learners.

The CTC already is undergoing a significant restructuring aimed at improved efficiency. An audit released last year found a big backlog of unprocessed teacher misconduct complaints.

Fallout from the review resulted in the former executive director retiring and Sandy's hiring in October.