Professional Standards and Practices Commission (PSPC)
The Professional Standards and Practices Commission (PSPC) was created to provide leadership for improving the quality of education in this Commonwealth by establishing high standards for preparation, certification, practice and ethical conduct in the teaching profession.
The PSPC has a membership of 13. It includes seven classroom teachers (one to be an educational specialist), three public school administrators (at least one a commissioned officer and one a principal), one administrator of a teacher preparation institution, and two members from the general public (one to be an elected school director). The Governor appoints the chairperson. The chair of the State Board of Education (SBE), or an SBE representative selected by the chair, is a non-voting member of the PSPC. Similarly, the PSPC has a non-voting seat on the SBE. Each of the 13 voting members is appointed to three-year concurrent terms by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate. Panels of nominees may be submitted by statewide organizations of professional educators.
Appointees must have been actively engaged in teaching or related service in a public school for at least five of the previous eight years. They must reside in Pennsylvania.
Professional organizations may nominate persons for appointment. The governor appoints for three-year terms commencing January 1 of the year following appointment. Gubernatorial appointees are confirmed by the Pennsylvania State Senate.
The PSPC is advisory to the State Board of Education (SBE) on setting standards for teacher education and certification. It recommends standards for types of certificates, teacher education program approval, program approval processes, initial examination, induction, continuing professional development, and reciprocal certification with other states and bodies. In addition to the preceding considerations, it also analyzes teacher education programs and national certification processes.
Public hearings are held on any recommendations being considered for recommendation to the SBE. Such recommendations must be presented publicly at an SBE meeting prior to SBE action on pertinent issues.
The PSPC has legal authority over professional educator discipline. The statute provides the PSPC four discipline options: private reprimand, public reprimand, suspension of certificate for a definite period, or certificate revocation. The PSPC can reinstate certificates.
BASES FOR DISCIPLINE
By law, the PSPC has developed and adopted a Code of Professional Practice and Conduct. The Code is effective November 1, 1992. Those parts of the PSPC Code on which discipline can be based are identified. Reprimand can be based on violation of the PSPC Code itself. However, suspension or revocation of the professional certificate cannot be based on violation of the Code alone.
The PSPC must also adopt definitions of the causes for discipline, set forth in the Commonwealth statute. The terms defined are: immorality, incompetency, intemperance, habitual use of drugs or narcotics, cruelty, negligence, crimes involving moral turpitude, and reinstatement.
In cases of indictment for moral turpitude (particularly vile crimes) or for drug addiction, the PSPC must suspend the certificate. (An indictment is a formal accusation initiating a criminal case, made by a special “grand” jury. The action is used for particularly serious crimes.) If the indicted person is convicted, the PSPC must revoke the certificate.
Falsifying an application for a certificate or illegal use of professional title also require professional discipline.
PDE receives formal complaints, investigates, and decides which, if any, cases merit prosecution. PDE’s counsel decides whether to dismiss or continue with the complaint. If the case is to be prosecuted, PDE must review information from the local school board if the board has dismissed the individual about whom a complaint is received. If the local board has not previously treated the issue, it may make a recommendation to PDE, after a local hearing. PDE’s office of legal counsel argues the case before a hearing officer, agreed to by the Governor’s General Counsel and two-thirds of the PSPC. The educator has the right to be represented. The hearing officer’s decision is final unless excepted to by the professional educator or PDE. Exceptions are considered by the Commission, which either affirms, reverses, or modifies the examiner’s ruling. The Commission imposes discipline, if any. Further appeals may be taken to Commonwealth Court.
By law, the PSPC must meet at least five times each year. In practice, the PSPC meets every other month for two days. Additionally, PSPC committees often meet on the months between meetings of the total Commission. Typically, meetings are held in Harrisburg in the Department of Education building. Meeting schedules are available on the PSPC website.
The Professional Educator Discipline Act provides for an Executive Director to assist the Commission in the exercise of its responsibilities. In addition, the Governor, through the Office of General Counsel, provides all necessary legal advice to the Commission. Currently, the Executive Director also serves as counsel for the Commission. The Executive Director is supported by an Administrative Assistant, who provides all clerical and administrative duties to the Commission.
More information on the PSPC can be found at http://www.pde.state.pa.us/pspc.