Funds sought to resolve backlog of complaints about Pa. teachers
February 27, 2013By Mary Wilson
The head of Pennsylvania's education department is looking for a way to solve a backlog of complaints against schoolteachers.
But Education Secretary Ron Tomalis says the problem won't go away without more money.
In his recent budget address, Gov. Tom Corbett proposed spending $775,000 for additional lawyers to investigate teacher complaints and help fund the state commission overseeing teacher certifications.
The funds will help clear a pileup of roughly 500 cases in which teachers face misconduct allegations, Tomalis said.
He says the cases increased after a cheating scandal, which began with a 2009 state study flagging 89 schools for possibly doctoring student test answers.
"In addition to that, we have 140, 150 cases involving individuals with some type of sexual misconduct allegations against them," Tomalis said Wednesday.
The Department of Education is responsible for investigating each complaint against teachers and bringing evidence before a state panel to have those teachers' certifications revoked.
Tomalis says with the lag in investigations, some teachers are leaving the area where a complaint has been filed and using their certification to find work elsewhere in the state.
"And we've seen this happen ... one person will go from one school district to another school district and sometimes their background doesn't follow with them -- and they might have done something improper at a prior school district," he said. "They walk into a new school district with their cert, and they say, 'I'm a certified teacher for eighth-grade science.'"
The funding will come from an increase in the teacher certification fee.