Education Secretary Wants to Cut Backlog of Complaints

Mar 4, 2013

The head of the Pennsylvania Department of Education is looking for a way to solve a buildup of complaints against schoolteachers. 

About $775,000 is being requested to pay for additional lawyers to investigate teacher complaints and help fund the state commission overseeing teacher certifications. The funding will come from an increase in the teacher certification fee.

Education Secretary Ron Tomalis said the funds will help clear up a pile of roughly 500 cases in which teachers face misconduct allegations.

He said 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 the backlog has been around for years. He said the administration wants to increase its manpower so teachers that would otherwise have their certificates speedily revoked don’t continue to be employed.

“And we’ve seen this happen certainly in history, is that 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,” said Tomalis. “They walk into a new school district with their cert, and they say, ‘I’m a certified teacher for 8th grade science.”

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 said 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.