Thursday, March 12, 2009

Job Opportunity Chief Hearing Officer; & Correction

Here is an interesting job opportunity. The Washington DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education has advertised the position of Chief Hearing Officer. The job involves management and supervision of the special education hearing officers in DC as well as other specified duties. The position is contractual but it pays very well at $225,000. You can read the request for quotation here.

This is part of an encouraging trend that due process hearing officers are being paid better. IDEA'04 imposed more stringent qualifications and training requirements upon the persons who become special ed hearing officers. Given the concern of Congress, as reflected in the amendments it made to the law, it seems only fair that the increased experience and training requirements should be paired with better pay.

I freely admit that I have multiple biases here. I am a hearing officer for a growing number of states and I train hearing officers from many other states. I also advise states on hearing and other dispute resolution systems. OK so I have a conflict, but the pay question is related to my previous posts about the need for a higher level of respect for special ed hearing officers. I suspect that part of the reason for lower pay for hearing officers in some places is a lack of respect, if not outright contempt, for these important folks.

On an unrelated matter, there was an unfortunate typo in my most recent blog post. It was unintentional and I apologize for it. It has since been corrected, but not before many of you read it. Thanks to those who reported it to me so that I could fix it. I'll try to proofread more carefully. Again, sorry.


  1. That's an awful lot considering that the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court makes around $220,000. Of course this job appears to be somewhat more about administration than adjudication.

    I notice that one of the duties of this position is ruling on requests for continuances, and another is issuing subpoenas. I'm not familiar with the D.C. regulations, but this suggestes that the hearing officers working under the chief hearing officer can't grant continuances or issue subpoenas themselves. Having become acquainted with special education law, and administrative law generally, relatively recently, I've been struck by the odd sort of limbo that ALJs often occupy, more authoritative than a mediator, but less than other judges.

    I know that many ALJs' rulings are only "suggested" rulings until approved by the head of the agency for which they work, but its somewhat troubling that the people entrusted with the responsibility of evaluating the nature of the education disabled students will receive in the case of a dispute, are not considered up to the task of evaluating the appropriateness of a continuance request or issuance of a subpoena.

    I think this is less true in states like NJ, where administrative hearings are centralized, ALJs hear cases for all state agencies, wear robes, have general control over scheduling, can issue(although not enforce) subpoenas, and in special ed cases, issue final rulings.

    On the other hand this takes away one of the real advantages of Administrative hearings: ALJs with specialized knowledge of the area.

    I'd be interested to hear what others think of the relative merits of centralized vs. decentralized administrative hearing systems, as well as the role of ALJs.

  2. Jonathan,

    Thank you for your thoughts. There are many kinds of due process systems: eg, central panel vs. contract hos (and within that central panels with specialized SpEd hos vs generalists); two tier vs. one tier; attorneys vs others as hos; one ho vs three panel members; well paid hos vs not; well trained hos vs. not; etc. I wonder what effect the system design has upon outcomes?


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