I searched through my entries, and I cannot find a reference to the Georgia teachers who will lose their licenses because they bought bogus advanced degrees online (free registration required). How could I have been so remiss in not telling you, gentle reader, all about this unbelievable example of a severe dearth of ethics in my profession?
What basically happened is that these teachers, who were mostly middle school teachers, many of whom worked in my former system, bought masters and doctorates from a diploma mill known as St. Regis University located in Liberia. None of the teachers was known to me, nor did they work at my former school. The Georgia Professional Standards Commission voted nearly unanimously (11-1) to revoke their teaching certificates. Without a teaching certificate, no public school is able to hire them to teach. I would be very surprised if a private school did, either, considering the circumstances. I doubt they would be able to move elsewhere and be certified. Should they lie, I am unsure what recourse the injured school would have. I have been told that someone who lies on a job application for a public school system can have action taken against their certificate. If you have no certificate, though, perhaps some sort of criminal charge of fraud or something of the sort could be made.
When teachers complete an approved education plan at an approved/accredited university, like I did, and have passed a certification test (or two, as is now required), we are eligible to apply to the GAPSC for a teaching certificate. Every five years, we must submit proof that we have taken college coursework or professional development courses as required to keep our knowledge of the art of teaching and our subject matter current. When we complete advanced degrees, we submit the information in much the same way, although we are not required to take further tests. The GAPSC then decides whether or not to grant us a certificate at a higher level. Mine is, for example, a T-4, which means I have a bachelor’s degree. Someone with a master’s degree might hold a T-5 certificate. Someone with a specialist’s degree would hold a T-6. A person with a doctorate would have a T-7. Leadership degrees are the same, but they are listed as L-6 or L-7. I’m not sure if you can have an L-5. Pay goes up as your degree level advances.
Basically what these people did was to sacrifice their careers in education for monetary gain. I guess we all get into teaching for the big bucks, don’t we? Granted, I believe teachers are not paid enough, but I find it appalling that my colleagues would feel it is okay to defraud their school system, their students, their students’ parents, and the state of Georgia into thinking they had earned an advanced degree. Advanced degrees are a badge of honor. They represent hard work. They represent specialist knowledge. I’m happy that this case demonstrated that those things cannot be bought.
You can still work in private schools in Georgia without a certificate. And you can work in other industries, too. But I can’t think of an employer who would, in good conscience, hire someone who had done this. I’m sure it was tempting. It looked so easy. And why do the work if you can get away with not doing it? What a lesson to teach one’s students.
Even though this effectively ends the careers of these educators, and might seriously damage their prospects in another field, I think it was important that the GAPSC took the hard line and did not allow this travesty to be punished lightly. I agree with their finding that purchasing these degrees “and using them to obtain raises violated ethics rules on misrepresentation or falsification, misuse of public funds and property, criminal acts and professional conduct.”
A Ben Hill County parent said of David Mims, a principal who bought a phony degree from St. Regis: “‘The stars get doctorates for not even going to college, stuff they have not done. If he has been doing fine with our children let him be,’ says parent Elaine Hubbert.” It is much more complicated than that. This parent clearly doesn’t understand the difference between an honorary doctorate and a real one. Lots of people with no degree at all might have all the makings of being an excellent teacher and a way with kids, but you learn things to further your expertise when you get a degree. Ultimately, the measure of it is this: do you want a liar and a fraud teaching your child? I would hope the answer is “no.” It’s a pity that these eleven educators didn’t ask themselves that question before they bought those phony degrees.