November 23, 2015

Bill targets teacher pensions for child pornography convicts

11-23-15 Massachusetts:

Lawmakers are starting to line up behind a bill that would strip teachers convicted of child pornography crimes of their taxpayer-funded pensions, closing a controversial loophole in what one leading lawmaker calls a “no-brainer.”

The legislation, filed by the Massachusetts Teachers Retirement System, had a hearing last week before the Committee on Public Service, and the Senate chairman wants to see it moved for a full vote in “short order.”

“A crime against a child, direct or indirect, is, I think, one of the most egregious offenses in the commonwealth or anywhere,” said state Sen. James Timilty, the committee chairman and a Walpole Democrat, who is backing the bill.

“A teacher is a position that we hold very highly in this commonwealth and in this country, and it comes with responsibilities,” Timilty said. “And an offense against the child should be dealt with directly. ... When it was testified on, I thought it was a no-brainer.”

The Herald reported yesterday that at least five teachers are still receiving pensions despite child pornography convictions. Current law allows retired teachers convicted of sex offenses involving children to still collect their pension, as long as the crime wasn’t committed while they were working in classrooms or directly related to their teaching duties.

The MTRS has argued that certain offenses involving children “are so contrary to the role of educating children, that convictions of these crimes are indeed ‘fundamental’ to the job,” according to testimony it submitted to lawmakers.

House chairman James Murphy (D-Weymouth) said he hadn’t staked out a position on the bill, saying it’s still under review by the committee. “But clearly,” he said, “the facts that are presented to the committee are disturbing.”

“I wouldn’t even call this pension reform. I would call this the right thing to do for any clear-thinking person who cares about kids,” said state Rep. Shaunna O’Connell (R-Taunton). “These are people that we entrust the care of our children to each and every day at school. And they’re leading this secret, sick life.” ..Source.. by Matt Stout

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