Senator Saland Announces Agreement On Bills To Keep Felons Off School Payrolls
Senator Steve Saland (R,I,C Poughkeepsie) today announced agreement with the Assembly and the Governor on legislation to get school employees convicted of sex crimes (S.8553) and school business officials convicted of defrauding the government (S.8554) out of schools immediately. Both bills passed the Senate and Assembly today and will be sent to the Governor who has expressed his support.
Present law provides that even after being convicted of a crime which would place them on the Sex Offender Registry, employees who hold state certifications are entitled to what is known as a Part 83 hearing to determine whether they should keep their certification. Additionally, the law also provides that tenured employees who have been convicted are also entitled to a 3020-A hearing to determine whether they should keep their job. In some cases, this can keep employees convicted of heinous crimes on the payroll for extended periods of time, with taxpayers footing the bill. According to a 2004 survey, it has been estimated that, annually, over $25 million is spent by schools on 3020-A hearings. The same survey found that 22% of 3020-A hearings involved improper student contact. The average 3020-A hearing costs schools roughly $150,000 per employee.
“As the Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, the protection of children has been my highest priority,” said Senator Saland. “In 2000, I authored the law to require that prospective public school employees have criminal history background checks, and public school employees report any allegations of improper conduct by employees against students. That law is working – criminals have been kept from working in schools and students’ allegations of improper conduct have been heard and acted on.”
“It is important to note that the overwhelming majority of individuals working in our schools are highly dedicated hardworking professionals. There have been a number of incidents, however, involving sexual predators that warrant a change in the current law. Those convicted of these heinous sex offenses should be immediately terminated and be stripped of their certification as their criminal actions clearly pose a threat to the student population,” Saland added.
“In addition, fiscal administrators who have been convicted of defrauding the government should have their certifications revoked and be immediately terminated. Student safety and ensuring that taxpayers are protected from criminals is the intent of these bills – we should do no less,” Saland continued.
“This bill avoids redundancy and saves taxpayers’ money,” said Saland. “It provides that a conviction for a crime which would place the employee on the Sex Offender Registry or the crime of defrauding the government is cause for immediate revocation of certification and termination of employment, without the necessity of taxpayer funded hearings. It will get these criminals out of schools and off the payroll much earlier so taxpayers don’t get stuck with the bill,” Saland concluded.