Governor signs background check bill

Governor Deval Patrick has signed legislation requiring prospective and current Massachusetts educators employed in public and private schools, as well as those employed in child-care programs licensed by the state, to undergo national background checks and fingerprinting.

Massachusetts is one of the last states in the country to require national background checks for teachers and other school employees. Prior to the enactment of this law, educators and child-care employees were required to be checked against the state’s Criminal Offender Record Information system, commonly known as CORI, which is limited to offenses committed within Massachusetts.

The governor signed the measure on January 10.

The impetus for the bill was to promote safe schools and protect all children in Massachusetts.

The MTA was successful in advocating that any law related to educator background checks should not be limited to public schools, but also should include all private schools and licensed child-care programs. The MTA also worked to make the provisions for those covered by the bill consistent with the ones included in the CORI reforms of 2010. This will help ensure that access to background information is properly limited and that the information can be used only for the purposes intended.

The new law includes a one-time fee for prospective and current employees, which will be capped at $55 for teachers and professional staff and $35 for education support professionals and child-care employees. The one-time fee for the checks is to cover their cost and associated processing expenses. The bill allows the fees to be subject to local negotiations calling for school districts to cover the costs.

The law takes effect for the 2013-2014 school year for all new employees and requires all current employees to undergo national background checks over the next three years. In the next few months, regulations will be put in place that will help explain how the measure will be implemented.

The MTA will continue to provide updates in the days ahead, including advice from the Legal Division and field representatives. 
 
Summary of the Bill; Link to Full Text