Friday, January 14, 2011
Why The UFT and DOE Makes It Almost Impossible To Be Aquitted By An Arbitrator In Their 3020-a Hearings
In some of my posts I get comments from anonymous people on why if teachers are innocent, then why do they get fines, and even suspensions in their 3020-a hearings? That is a very good question and this post will answer that question. The answer is in fact, very simple. The NYC version of the 3020-a process is geared not to acquit educators. Let's look why that is the case.
New York State 3020-a Process:
First, what is the 3020-a State Law? The 3020-a State Law requires that any school district who wants to fire an educator for alleged incompetence or misconduct must present their case in front of an impartial arbitrator, paid for by the State, and will hear from both sides who can present evidence and witnesses to prove or defend their case. This is called "due process" and stops school districts from filing frivolous or bogus charges since it can cost $250,000 or more to go through an entire 3020-a hearing process. In the State version of the 3020-a hearings, the Arbitrator and the school district lawyer are not familiar with each other and the 3020-a Arbitrator is more likely to acquit or terminate the educator, based on the evidence, or lack thereof. However, the NYC 3020-a process is different.
New York City 3020-a Process:
A decade ago the UFT and the DOE decided to "streamline" the 3020-a process by assigning Arbitrators to a panel to hear the New York City educator cases (Article 21G2 pg 116 of the latest teacher contract). The Arbitrators selected served for a maximum of a one year term and can only be renewed if both sides agree that the Arbitrator did a good job. Therefore, Arbitrators were under pressure form both sides to come up with decisions that would not alienate one side or the other that might jeopardize their position on the Board. Therefore, Arbitrators were very reluctant to either terminate or acquit educators but would hand down "awards" of fines and suspensions. The Arbitrators knew that if they did not terminate the teacher, the union was happy that the educator kept his or her job, while the DOE was happy that the Arbitrators found the educator guilty by handing out fines and suspensions. While this is not the same as the State 3020-a proceedings it should have resulted in relatively fair decisions. However, the New York City 3020-a arraignment is actually detrimental to the educator, when compared to the State 3020-a process since the DOE is more aggressive in going after Arbitrators and the hearings are held in their building. Let's look at the other changes the UFT and DOE have agreed on that hurt educator "due process" rights when compared to the State 3020-a process.
The Elimination Of The Three Arbitrator Panel For Incompetence Cases:
The State 3020-a process requires a three Arbitrator panel to determine educator incompetence. However, the UFT and DOE agreed to eliminate the three Arbitrator panel and only one Arbitrator is assigned to each incompetence case. The elimination of the three-Arbitrator panel reduces educator "due process" by allowing one Arbitrator to make the decision that can affect the educator's future employment. As you have guessed there has been more charges of teacher incompetence since this change a decade ago.
Gone Is The Educator's Right To Select An Arbitrator From A List:
The State 3020-a process allows the accused educator to select an Arbitrator from a list sent by the State. In the NYC 3020-a process, the Arbitrator is assigned to the educator and cannot be changed.
Familiarity By All Parties With Each Other:
The NYC 3020-a process allows the Arbitrator to be paired up with the DOE and NYSUT lawyers. This grouping can stay together for up to four years and the only outsider is the accused educator. Therefore, the Arbitrator may be influenced by the lawyers that he or she has been with for years while the poor educator is just an outsider and a number. This is not good for the educator as his or her input may be somewhat discounted by the Arbitrator. This may be especially true when the educator takes a private lawyer who is not only a stranger to the Arbitrator but threatens the group relationship and can subconsciously affected the Arbitrator's decision.
The Probable Cause Provision:
Only the NYC 3020-a process has the infamous "probable cause" provision that was just recently expanded by the UFT and DOE to include a felony assault allegation. This has resulted in many an educator taken off payroll for up to three months and without health benefits simply based upon hearsay.
Elimination Of The Right To Grieve A Letter To The File:
The UFT also agreed to eliminate the teacher's right to grieve Letters-To-The-File (LIF) allowing Principals to pile up LIF against teachers for use in the 3020-a hearing.
In addition, the DOE is much more aggressive in removing Arbitrators who they believe are too educator friendly then the UFT. The result is that the remaining Arbitrators will make sure the "awards" are sufficiency harsh to pacify the DOE, least they be targeted for removal by the DOE.
Finally, the UFT has encouraged the teachers to take the voluntary PIP+ program that has a 90% failure rate and an almost 100% termination rate by the Arbitrators. who have uniformly agreed to allow the PIP+ educator to testify as an "expert witness".
The union may object to this post but the truth is the truth. Our union has weakened educator "due process" rights and have put any teacher that is targeted by an Administrator in danger of termination.