BOSTON — Teachers, school officials and day care employees are submitting fingerprints under a state law that requires they clear national criminal background checks, but questions remain about who should pay for the increased scrutiny.
A law signed by Gov. Deval Patrick last year requires school employees to provide the fingerprints and undergo national checks. Family childcare providers and their household members age 15 or older are also subject to the checks, as well as subcontractors who work at schools.
Teachers unions and superintendents say they support the expanded checks, which got underway in February, but some have complained about the processing fee — $55 for licensed teachers and $35 for janitors, clerical workers, bus drivers and other staff. Fees cover the costs of fingerprinting and the administrative costs of background checks.
Fingerprinting processing centers run by the state’s vendor, Billerica-based MorphoTrust, are open in eight communities — Beverly, Boston, Bourne, Brockton, Leominster, Pittsfield, Springfield and Worcester. State officials said they are working with the company to open more, including one in Haverhill.
Beverly Schools Superintendent Albert Argenziano said he’s already processed about 22 percent of the district’s nearly 500 employees at a fingerprinting site in the downtown.
“We’re trying to get a large chunk of our people processed by the beginning of the next school year,” he said.
Argenziano said the teachers union raised the issue of the school district paying the fees during recent contact negotiations, but the cash-strapped district said it couldn’t afford it. He estimates the cost would be more $24,000 if the district paid for everyone.
“Our position is that educators have to pay for their own license renewal every five years, and this is just another part of it added to that,” Argenziano said.
In Methuen, school officials have more than 900 school employees to fingerprint under the new law. But those efforts have been complicated by contract negotiations between union leaders and the district over who should pay the costs, which could run as high as $40,000.