PSC suspends Atlanta schools cheating cases

The Professional Standards Commission, which polices Georgia teachers, announced Monday it would suspend hearings in the Atlanta case until the agency can view investigative files from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Those files are now in the custody of Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, who said he will not release them until the criminal investigation is complete.

The PSC in October took action against 11 educators implicated in the scandal and planned to have the approximately 190 remaining cases resolved by January. Now, it could be months before the agency has access to the evidence it needs to move forward with sanctions. Most of the educators named in the report are on paid administrative leave, which is costing the school district $1 million a month.

"Certainly our preference would be to continue our work without interruption," said Kelly Henson, executive secretary for the PSC. "But we do understand the DA's position."

The GBI's investigation, released in July, found cheating at 44 schools and implicated almost 180 educators. Those named in the GBI report face three avenues of punishment -- criminal charges from the district attorney, loss of license from the PSC and termination from Atlanta Public Schools. The school district is waiting for the other agencies to take action before beginning termination hearings.

Howard was concerned the licensing hearings could impede his criminal investigation, according to the PSC. A spokesman for Howard referred questions to the PSC and declined to offer further comment.

It's unclear whether this signals criminal charges are imminent in the school cheating case. A spokesman for Howard would not say when or if criminal charges would be filled.

A similar investigation has been ongoing in Dougherty County schools.

A report on the GBI's findings involving a high number of erasures on the 2009 CRCT tests within the Dougherty schools is expected to be delivered to Gov. Nathan Deal soon.