A battle waged until late into the night before the holiday weekend, on whether schools should use their precious resources to continue to pay thousands of dollars in back-pay and benefits for school employees that have pled guilty for illegal drugs instead of keeping that money in the classrooms. At one point in the marathon legislative session, it received as many as 39 votes, but the special interests worked overtime to kill the measure. Ultimately, they succeeded and the measure died on a 38-32 vote.
This legislation would have provided necessary protection for school districts, and prevented drug offenders from taking advantage of loopholes in the law. Courts are forcing school districts to pay up to hundreds of thousands of dollars to these offenders. Allowing this loophole to remain also violates the spirit of state education law, which protects students from school employees that use drugs. If anything, allowing them to collect backpay rewards their behavior.
“I just do not see how you can defend the position that it is okay to pay full salary and benefits to teachers and school employees, sometimes for several years, after they have been arrested and pled guilty for illegal drugs when at the same time schools need those funds for the classroom,” said Senator George Runner (R-Antelope Valley).
“Defeating this measure and protecting the status quo sends a clear statement that the State Assembly wants to protect and provide incentives for teachers and school employees to get arrested for drug use. If you do, you get a two year vacation with full pay and benefits.”
Senate Bill 1185 would have given school districts the option to not to pay the back-pay and benefits to school employees who are arrested on illegal drug charges and sent to a drug diversion program in lieu of prison.
Runner added, “These are individuals who have been caught and arrested for breaking the law, not individuals who voluntarily come forward and admit they have an addiction and take a leave of absence to get treatment. Unfortunately, the law currently rewards teachers who have been arrested and pled guilty to drug charges by providing them back-pay compared with individuals who take responsibility and voluntarily choose to get treatment and last night the State Assembly voted to continue to reward them.”
The measure was opposed by the California Federation of Teachers, California School Employees Association (CSEA), SEIU, AFSCME, and California Labor Federation.