In Legislature overrides Hogan’s veto on teacher-discipline bill, reporter Glynis Kazanjian discusses the Maryland state legislature’s override of Maryland Governor Hogan’s veto on a bill allowing public school teachers recommended for suspension or termination to bypass school board disciplinary hearings and use an outside arbitrator to decide their fate. Below is a summary of the article.[1]

The Maryland legislature overrode Governor Larry Hogan’s veto of the bill in early April.[2]  The new law, SB639, is comparable to laws in some other states allowing for use of an outside arbitrator in teacher discipline and discharge cases.[3]  For more information about the use of arbitration in this context, consider revisiting a short paper we published last year, “The Curious Case of Massachusetts’ Teacher Dismissal Statute.”

Proponents of the new Maryland law argue that it will make the teacher discipline and dismissal process more fair and efficient.[4]  “By introducing the option of arbitration, it will actually make the process faster to get rid of a bad teacher,” said Delegate Eric Luedtke, D-Montgomery, a former public school teacher.[5]  Delegate Jimmy Tarlau, D-Prince George’s, noted that the new law brings neutrality into the process.[6]  “Ninety-five percent of all workers covered by collective bargaining contracts have arbitration, a neutral process as the last part of any grievance procedure,” Delegate Tarlau said.[7]  “Firefighters, health workers, and airlines have it. No one wants management to make the final decision about whether somebody should be disciplined. You want to have a neutral person do it.”[8]

Opponents of the new law say it takes away local school board authority and may actually make it more difficult to discipline or discharge teachers.[9]  “It takes the local board of education out of the decision and brings in an outside arbitrator who by definition has no connection to the school system,” said Delegate Susan Krebs, D-Carroll, a former president of the Carroll County Board of Education.[10]  Delegate Krebs also noted that many protections already exist for teachers, including a multi-step appeals process.

Under current Maryland law, the school board can rule on a teacher suspension or dismissal case themselves, or they can choose to use a hearing examiner, who would then make a recommendation to the school board.[11]  If the teacher wants to challenge the decision, they can appeal the decision to the State Board of Education. If the state board concurs with the local board decision, the case must be reviewed by an administrative law judge with the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH).[12]  The state board must also send the teacher’s case to OAH if they believe there is a legitimate dispute of material fact.[13]  If a teacher is still unhappy, he or she has the option to appeal to the Circuit Court where they reside, within 30 days of the SBOE decision.[14]  Under the new law, the arbitrator’s ruling will be final, but the teacher may request a judicial review by a circuit court, which must be governed by the Maryland Uniform Arbitration Act.[15]  The judicial review provided by this statute is very limited, as provided for in the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA).

Under the new law, if a teacher is recommended for suspension or termination by an arbitrator, the teacher must pay half the costs associated with the arbitration hearing.[16]

(This summary was prepared by Samantha Groark, a third-year law student at the University of Missouri School of Law.)

[1] Glynis Kazanjian, Legislature overrides Hogan’s veto on teacher-discipline bill, Baltimore Post-Examiner (last visited Apr. 19, 2018).

[2] – [16] Id.