In education circles, they refer to it as “passing the trash.”
It’s unprofessional. Plenty of people, perhaps you, would describe it as unethical. It ought to be illegal.
A misbehaving teacher shouldn’t be able to resign from — and dodge penalties in — one school district only to re-emerge in a Pennsylvania classroom elsewhere, perhaps to repeat the offense, with no notification of the past dirty deeds provided to the new employer.
Yet that’s how some districts historically have unloaded their worst “professionals.” The practice sounds eerily like the way the Catholic Church used to shuffle its problem priests from parish to parish, blindly allowing troubled men to repeat their crimes without facing consequences.
Proposed legislation in Harrisburg seeks to stop the unfettered flow of unfit educators. Senate Bill 46 would require school districts to confidentially share certain information about teachers, closing loopholes that have allowed people unsuited for the classroom to slink from job to job.
For instance, the law would require a district to disclose whether a teacher:
• “has been the subject of an abuse or sexual misconduct investigation” unless it was determined the allegations were false.
• “has ever been disciplined, discharged, nonrenewed, asked to resign from employment, resigned from or otherwise separated from any employment while allegations of abuse or sexual misconduct” were pending or being investigated.
Members of the House education committee, including state Rep. Mike Carroll, D-Hughestown, reviewed this legislation, apparently liked what they saw and unanimously voted to forward the measure to their House colleagues. In a highly functioning system, Senate Bill 46 would then have been debated, put forth for a vote and possibly fast-tracked to Gov. Tom Corbett’s office for his signature.
This, however, is Pennsylvania’s Legislature.
Stalled Senate Bill 46 seems to be headed nowhere. Instead, if things unfold as certain Democrats suspect, another piece of legislation that closely mirrors Senate Bill 46 will be introduced, perhaps as soon as today, and gradually wind its way through the process over the next several months. Presumably certain Republicans intended to use the popular legislation as a bargaining chip during budget negotiations and later claim credit for its introduction and passage.
If so, shame on them. Shame on anyone who plays political games for personal benefit while postponing action on a bill intended, in large part, to safeguard children.
One might logically expect state lawmakers to avoid this sort of high jinks on principle, or at least be sensitive during this election year to suggestions that the governor delayed a high-profile investigation years ago that also involved young people’s welfare.
Alas, logic does not consistently apply in Harrisburg.
If it did, “passing the trash” already would be illegal in Pennsylvania, and discussions would focus on how to further expand school districts’ information-sharing obligations across state borders. After all, our miscreants certainly don’t belong at the head of a classroom in Kansas, Kentucky or anyplace else in the country.