For decades, school districts were reluctant to fire teachers and administrators because it was so complicated and expensive. However, changes in the law mean there are more attempts being made and the costs have dropped significantly.
Everyone connected with education in New York was familiar with the 3020a section of the Education Law because it governs firing tenured teachers and administrators. It is a massive explosive that districts were reluctant to set off because an action might take three years and cost up to $3 million.
Instead, the teacher or administrator was moved somewhere, on full pay and often into what were called "rubber rooms."
Then, Albany changed the rules and required a final determination within 120 days of the filing of a complaint within the district.
"If a teacher was subject to discipline, they would be stuck in a room doing curriculum for years and years while you paid them," said local lawyer Andrew Freedman, who represents area school districts. "During that time, you would be muddling through the 3020a process. Now, because the timeline has shortened significantly, we're getting decisions within those 120 days from the filing."
The law requires hearing officers to concentrate on one case steadily under the new rules, instead of a day here and a day there for several years.
Freedman says school districts are more willing to file charges now, while teachers and teacher unions are more willing to work out something to resolve the matter.
"Prior to the 3020a amendments, you might not just do anything disciplinary-wise to that teacher because it was not cost-effective," said Freedman. "Now you can work your way through the progressive discipline process and hold people accountable and not break the bank while doing it."