Backlog of misconduct cases remain on appeal

Backlog of misconduct cases remain on appeal

(Calif.) The number of open educator misconduct cases pending at the Attorney General’s office remains historically high while the total number in April exceeded 2,800.

The vast majority of misconduct cases are resolved by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, but those cases that cannot can be appealed to an administrative law judge where the commission is represented by the Department of Justice.

Although the Legislature has increase funding to support the legal costs surrounding misconduct appeals, the Attorney General’s office has not been able to increase its staff sufficiently to use all of the additional money, according to a report from the non-partisan Legislative Analyst.

The LAO noted that the department carried forward $4.5 million in 2017-18 while the backlog of cases pending grew to 313 in September. The latest report released this month showed the number of open cases at the department dropped to 232 in April, which is more than triple the number from just 2012.

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.

Part of the challenge is the time it takes to close an appeal—currently more than 630 days, according to the LAO. That nearly twice as much as the state goal of one year and doesn’t include the time that a case might remain before officials at the CTC.

In 2016‑17, the median time spent by CTC investigating a teacher misconduct case was 414 days, the LAO reported.

“Together, CTC and DOJ are taking a combined 1,045 days to close out a teacher misconduct appeals case,” the report said. “Even if DOJ were to reach its goal of processing an appeals case within 365 days, CTC and DOJ together would be taking more than two years to close out the median case. During all this time, innocent teachers are being inconvenienced by a lengthy investigation process and guilty teachers remain teaching.”

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