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AFT Memo on Feinberg Recommendations

To:   Interested Parties
From:   American Federation of Teachers
Re:   Feinberg Recommendations for Handling Teacher Misconduct Cases
Date:   January 21, 2011

Last year, AFT President Randi Weingarten announced in a National Press Club speech that the AFT would look inward at it own practices and seek to fix policies that were not working well for teachers or kids. Toward that end, she asked Kenneth Feinberg, a well-respected lawyer who handled claims for the 9/11 victims and presently is handling the claims process for victims of the BP oil spill in the Gulf, to review alleged teacher misconduct cases and develop a fair and expeditious procedure for resolving them. Earlier this week, Mr. Feinberg sent his report and recommendations to the AFT to review and consider, and the AFT executive council will vote on the recommendations next month. Mr. Feinberg’s work was completely independent; the AFT paid him for his work but did not try to influence his findings.

We believe that Mr. Feinberg has produced a thoughtful and commonsense approach for addressing accusations of teacher wrongdoing. It attempts to ensure fairness and due process, as well as transparency and expediency. The proposal establishes a path for an informal resolution within 20 days, and ensures that, if a formal hearing is necessary, the final judgment will be made in 100 days. Under Mr. Feinberg’s proposal, there will be no more “rubber rooms.” Cases of teacher wrongdoing will no longer languish for months or years before they are resolved.

We asked Mr. Feinberg to take on this challenge because, in many instances, the current due process system was not working well for anyone. In some states, cases were taking too long to resolve, turning due process into glacial process, and leaving the impression that tenure meant a “job for life,” which it was never intended to be. The Feinberg proposal will restore the due process system to what it was meant to be: a process that is fair, transparent and expeditious. It will protect students from teachers who don’t belong in the classroom, and it will protect teachers from having their careers ruined by false allegations.

Some have demanded a complete end to tenure. The public rejects this point of view, and understands that teaching is a vital service. By the very nature of their jobs, teachers have a great deal of responsibility and must be treated fairly. But that has not stopped some from using the current fiscal crisis to advance a very narrow and ideological agenda. On the question of whether teachers and other employees should be treated fairly in the workplace, the public supports mending—not ending—due process, and that is precisely what Mr. Feinberg’s proposal does.

The AFT remains committed to solving problems that challenge public education. Under the leadership of Randi Weingarten, we will continue to do everything we can to improve teacher quality and student learning. We are continuing our work, already under way in hundreds of school districts, to overhaul teacher development and evaluation systems to ensure that teachers and students have the conditions and tools they need to succeed.

The Feinberg report.

A related recent New York Times article.