AUSTIN – Educators sitting in jail convicted of sex crimes against children are collecting hundreds of thousands in taxpayer-supported pension benefits, News 8 has learned.
The taxpayer funded portion of those benefits would be cut off for teachers convicted of such horrible crimes if a bill proposed by a Plano state senator is passed in Austin.
The legislation is part of a wave of efforts to fix a broken system, which fails to track and punish teachers who sexually abuse students, revealed in WFAA’s “Passing The Trash” investigation last year.
News 8 found school district administrators passing predatory teachers from district to district, sometimes giving them positive job references, and failing to follow a state law that requires them to alert state regulators. New laws to help stop the practice and hold administrators accountable are pending in Austin now.
Sen. Van Taylor, R-Plano, said revoking the state’s portion of the pensions paid those teachers should be a priority.
“Teachers who molest children should not be rewarded with a pension – period,” he told News 8.
Remember John Graham Leddy? News 8 featured him last year for molesting a 7-year-old student. He pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual assault of a child and indecency with a child by sexual contact and received 20 years.
In the past few weeks, WFAA found that Leddy was one of the teachers still getting a pension – at least $17,063 a year.
“It's not right,” Leddy's victim's father told News 8 when he learned how much Leddy was earning on the backs of taxpayers.
“Some people work so hard, don't do crimes and don't get paid that much,” the girl’s father said.
Leddy, we found, is just one of several examples our research and records obtained from Sen. Taylor’s office revealed.
William Carl Knoll, a former Hamilton, Tx., teacher, groomed a 14-year-old over the course of several months, police say, and pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting the student. He’s in prison, earning at least $10,010 annually from the state teacher retirement system.
Reyes Obregon DeLeon, an ex-high school teacher from San Antonio, is in prison for the aggravated sexual assault of a child. Yet he’s racking up an estimated $35,705 a year, records show. That means when he’s eligible for parole in less than five years, he could have as much as a quarter million dollars in his bank account waiting for him.
Arthur Reyes is yet another example. He taught sixth grade in Central Texas until he was convicted of not one but two counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child. He’s banking at least $16,472 a year, records show.
Franklin Wray, a former superintendent from Leary ISD near Texarkana, is 70, and currently in prison for indecency with a child. State prison records show 19 separate incidents of indecency with a child. His estimated annual benefits? About $36,541 a year, records show.
There are more than 75 other educators that we know of who in the past 15 years were convicted of child sex crimes, some of them behind bars, others free, but all appear to be eligible to eventually receive taxpayer funded pensions – for a job well done.
“This is an outrage,” Sen. Taylor said.
He has filed multiple bills, including Senate Bill 652, that would revoke the publicly-funded pensions of educators as soon as they receive a final conviction for a sex crime against a child.
Rena Honea, president of Dallas’ largest teachers union, said there’s no question that crimes against children are heinous.
“An act like this is certainly intolerable, and it does deserve sanctions, and it deserves penalty, without a doubt,” said Honea, president of Alliance/AFT, which represents 5,500 DISD teachers and school employees.
But she questions whether revoking pensions would hold up in court.
“If this is something that I have worked for, I have paid into, why do you have the right to take that away?” Honea said. “If I am punished, I finished that punishment, I have served my time, I have the right to what I have earned and worked for.”
Sen. Taylor acknowledged that there are some legal limitations to revoking pensions. The Legislature cannot, for example, go after them retroactively, meaning only teachers convicted of child sex crimes after the law is enacted would be affected, he said.
“But just because Texas has been making a mistake doesn't mean we can't true the course,” the senator told News 8. “We need to reward our teachers. A good teacher is the key to a good education. But … right now, the state of Texas, the taxpayers of Texas, are rewarding teachers with a pension after they've been convicted of a felony for misconduct with a child.”
Sen. Taylor has filed a separate bill this legislative session to revoke pensions from former elected officials who break the law.
News 8 wanted to know what some convicted teachers think about whether they deserve their taxpayer-supported pensions, but all those we contacted in jail declined to be interviewed.
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