(SACRAMENTO) — Senator George Runner’s (R-Antelope Valley) legislation to protect schools and taxpayers from drug offenders who are taking advantage of loopholes in California law passed the Senate Education Committee yesterday over the objections of two teachers’ unions. Senate Bill 1185 will ensure that school employees who are caught abusing illegal drugs and sent to a drug diversion program do not receive back-pay and benefits. “Any school employee caught abusing drugs who decides to avoid a conviction by admitting guilt and entering a drug diversion program should not be rewarded with back-pay. This fails to put students first and wastes tax dollars,” said Senator George Runner. “Unless we close this loophole courts are forced to require school districts to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to these drug offenders in back-pay.” Senate Bill 1185 passed the Senate Education Committee after much debate with the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers. The California Federation of Teachers sent a letter of opposition stating: “The California Federation of Teachers opposes SB 1185 (Runner) as currently drafted. The bill prohibits a school employee that pleads guilty to a controlled substance offense and receives a deferred entry of judgment pending completion of a drug diversion program from receiving compensation for the period of the leave of absence.” Runner continued, “We were shocked the teachers’ unions would oppose a bill that saves money for the classroom rather than paying salary and benefits for 18-months to 2 years for teachers who pled guilty for illegal drugs like cocaine and methamphetamines. This bill closes a loophole that rewards drug offenders at the expense of the students.”
Both unions advocated for amendments that would allow a teacher who pled guilty on drug charges and sent to drug diversion program to be allowed to continue teaching while they were in the drug diversion program and to not notify the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC). This amendment was soundly rejected by the committee. 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 then 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, while individuals who take responsibility and voluntarily choose to get treatment do not have the same benefit.” SB 1185 passed the Senate Education Committee with a 6-0 vote. The legislation will be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee in the next few weeks.