Sponsored by the Palmdale School District and the County Office of Education
After a Senate floor debate, Senator George Runner’s (R-Antelope Valley) legislation passed the State Senate yesterday with a 26-2 vote. The legislation will protect schools and taxpayers from drug offenders who are taking advantage of loopholes in California law and ensure that school employees who are caught abusing illegal drugs and sent to a drug diversion program do not receive back-pay and benefits.
“This is common sense legislation that closes a loophole that rewards drug offenders at the expense of the students. Taxpayer dollars should not be wasted paying the back-pay for a teacher who was caught with illegal drugs. They should instead be used in the classroom to educate our children,” 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. This provision of current law fails to put students first.” The State Senate passed the legislation yesterday after debate in which one Democratic state senator who opposed the legislation because she equated people arrested for possession of illegal drugs to a person in a diabetic coma. Both, she explained, should be considered illnesses that cannot be controlled.
This argument was overcome by senators from both parties saying that current law is a problem and schools should not pay both the back-pay and benefits to a teacher who was arrested for illegal drugs and chooses drug diversion program over prison, and still be required to pay for a substitute teacher. 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 will now be considered in the State Assembly in the Assembly Education Committee in the next few weeks.