What is the independent arbitrator’s job at this hearing?
The arbitrator’s job is to determine the validity of the charges and what penalty, if any, to assign to the teacher. There is no set rubric for the arbitrator to use in making this decision – but he or she will weigh the following factors, among others:
- Did the Department of Education show by a preponderance of the evidence that there was “just cause”?
- How credible were the witnesses on each side, including the defendant?
- How well did the evidence support the charges?
- If the alleged action is found to have taken place, were there extenuating circumstances? Did the defendant seem remorseful?
- What was the defendant’s disciplinary record like before this 3020-a was instituted?
- What was the quality of the representation on each side?
How does an independent arbitrator get selected?
In New York City, the independent arbitrator is jointly selected by the Department of Education and the UFT/NYSUT to hear 3020-a cases arising in the city. The arbitrator sits on a panel of 23-29 arbitrators who are registered with the American Arbitration Association. She or he receives a renewable one-year contract, which can only be renewed with the approval of both the Department of Education and the UFT/NYSUT. These competing pressures sometimes lead arbitrators to try to strike a compromise, attempting to pacify both the educators and the districts in 3020-a decisions. However, according to some sources, the Department of Education tends to block renewal of arbitrators’ contracts in reaction to unfavorable decisions more often than the UFT/NYSUT does.
The arbitrator’s daily fee, which can be as high as $1,800, is paid by New York State.