* The last time Scott Reeder did a big investigation of the state’s school system, his series on teacher tenure prompted a major back and forth on this blog between himself and the Illinois Federation of Teachers.
This time, Reeder takes a look at how difficult it is to fire teachers accused of misconduct, among other things. He doesn’t paint a pretty picture. Here are three stories that are posted so far at a special Small Newspaper Group website…
* Illinois does poor job of dealing with teacher misconduct
A seven-month national investigation conducted by Small Newspaper Group found that Illinois has one of the worst track records for removing errant teachers from the profession.
The investigation found:
* Among the 50 states, only Virginia revokes or suspends fewer teaching certificates than Illinois.
* No investigators are employed by the Illinois State Board of Education so reports of teacher misconduct are often not investigated or acted upon.
* The Department of Children and Family Services has found 323 cases providing credible evidence of abuse by teachers, but none have had their licenses suspended or revoked.
* Teachers hired before 2004 have not had to undergo a state-mandated national criminal background check.
* Physicians are 43 times more likely than the state’s teachers to have their license suspended or revoked. Lawyers are 25 times more likely than teacher to have their license suspended or revoked.
* None of the tenured teachers fired in the last decade have also lost their teaching certificate and certification officials are not notified when a school district disciplines an educator.
Unlike most states, Illinois has never employed investigators to examine allegations against educators.
* Teachers get fired, but don’t leave classroom
* Out of 95,000 tenured teachers in Illinois an average of seven are fired each year, two for poor performance and five for misconduct.
* Eighty-four percent of Illinois’ school districts have never given any tenured teacher a bad job evaluation during an 11-year period.
* Over a five-year period school districts that retained attorneys and attempted to fire a tenured teacher spent an average $219,000 per case in legal fees alone. […]
Even so, school boards lose one-third of the cases heard by tenure hearing officers. But even if a hearing officer upholds the firing of teacher, they are free to seek employment in another school district.
In fact, none of the tenured teachers fired in the last decade have had subsequent action taken to revoke or suspend their teaching certificates.
That is not the way it works in some other states. For example, in Pennsylvania and New York, after a tenured teacher is fired the teacher licensing board automatically considers whether a teaching certificate should also be revoked.
* llinois lacks investigators, background on teachers before 2004
Both the Illinois Education Association and the Illinois Federation of Teachers also expressed concern about the logistics and cost of fingerprinting 127,000 teachers.
“I think if someone has been serving honorably in a school district for 25 or 30 years or even longer the idea that they should take time out their day to be fingerprinted doesn’t make a lot sense from any perspective,'’ said Charlie McBarron, spokesman for IEA.
The compromise bill, which passed in 2004, only requires fingerprinting for teachers when they are first hired by a school district. That means most teachers hired before 2004 have not undergone a complete criminal background check and likely will not for the remainder of their careers.
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart contends this approach is a mistake.
He noted that some teachers hired before 2004 may continue to be in the profession for 30 or more years.