Educator misconduct cases continue to choke the system

Educator misconduct cases continue to choke the system

(Calif.) The number of teacher misconduct cases awaiting an appeal hearing has actually increased since the governor and state lawmakers agreed last year to provide additional funding to help clear a backlog of some 265 open investigations.

But legislators monitoring actions to adjudicate these cases can expect to see them start being finalized within the coming year, according to a report being presented at the Capitol this afternoon.

“There’s a lot of groundwork that’s been laid but it hasn’t yet resulted in a reduction in that topline number of cases over at the Attorney General’s office,” said Joshua Speaks, spokesman for the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

“With the increase in resources budgeted in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 year, the Legislature should expect to see results in the next year,” Senate staff wrote in the report prepared for today’s hearing before the subcommittee on education finance.

The commission, which serves as the state's standards board for teacher training and professional conduct, came under fire after auditors found more than 12,000 misconduct cases unprocessed during the summer of 2009.

Included in that backlog were less serious complaints that had been set intentionally 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.

While the CTC is responsible for the initial review and dispensation of some 2,500 teacher misconduct reports annually, its rulings can be appealed by a credential holder to an administrative law judge.

At that point, the credentialing commission is represented in the appeal process by the state Attorney General, whose office has been challenged to keep up with the recent growth in caseload. The number of appeals requested, according to the subcommittee report, jumped from 100 at this time in 2011-12 to the current 265.

In order to address this backlog, the 2015-16 budget act included an increase in fees charged by the CTC for credentialing services. The revenue generated is intended to support additional legal staff, the report says, with approximately $5.1 million budgeted annually for the appeal work handled by the Attorney General and the Office of Administrative Hearing.

“The commission has been working with the Attorney General’s office to ramp things up but that process has involved hiring new staff,” said Speaks, noting that plans call for hiring “several attorneys and some support staff” dedicated specifically to handling CTC cases.

That takes time, he said, and the Senate panel is likely to hear today from representatives for the Attorney General’s office exactly where they are in that process.

In 2014-15, the CTC reported averaging 2,469 open cases per month, with a total of 5,404 new cases opened in 2014-15 – figures the CTC says represents a “fairly consistent” caseload over the past three years.

The cases involving credential holders and applicants result from criminal charges, reports filed by local educational agencies, and misconduct self-disclosed on applications.

Reports of arrests and prosecutions – known as RAP sheets – accounted for a total of 1,757 cases last year, down from 1,971 recorded last year and 2,200 in 2012-13.

The largest category of misconduct was alcohol-related, accounting for 2,290 cases – down from 2,409 in 2013-14 and 2,408 reported in 2012-13.