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smentzer@pahousegop.com

Ghost Teachers Costing Taxpayers and Students Plenty
9/29/2016
By Rep. Steve Mentzer (R-Lititz)

Legislation introduced in the House would end a practice that permits teachers to remain on the public payroll while they are out of the classroom and actually doing work for the union they belong to rather than teaching our children.

This issue is that collective bargaining agreements forged by unions when negotiating with local school boards permit school employees to take a full-time leave of absence from the classroom to perform union work. This practice is also known as “release time.”

While on leave doing union work, these “ghost teachers” remain on their school district’s payroll, accrue seniority, and retain pension benefits.

For example, in Philadelphia, most of the employees on leave have been working for the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) for at least 15 years. This includes the union’s president, Jerry Jordan, who has been on leave for three decades.

At present, 16 ghost teachers are earning $1.5 million while working for their union. While the PFT reimburses the school district for ghost teachers’ salaries, the contract does not require reimbursement. And, there is no evidence the union reimburses the state for its share of pension payments made on behalf of ghost teachers.

This abuse is not isolated to Philadelphia. In Pittsburgh, the school district’s collective bargaining agreement allows for up to 6 teachers (plus part time staff) to work for the union at any one time. While the union must reimburse the district for union leave, employees accrue seniority in their absence.

In theory, under the state’s policy of seniority-based layoffs, a classroom teacher could be furloughed before a teacher on full-time union leave.

Unlike in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, taxpayers in the Allentown School District pay for the entire salary and benefits of the school district’s union president. According to the Fairness Center, since 2000, state and local taxpayers have spent more than $1.3 million subsidizing the salary of an Allentown Education Association employee.
In order to reform our laws to prevent this abuse, any reform legislation concerning the practice of release time should include three key elements:

House Bill 2125 would end release time with two exceptions:

Statewide teachers’ unions (like the American Federation of Teachers - Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania State Education Association) could have 3 officials on leave for up to 6 years.

School district employees may only be on leave for 15 total days each school year but no more than 3 consecutive days.

House Bill 2125 would also require government unions to fully reimburse taxpayers for the costs associated with release time.

None of the legislation proposed prohibits unions from filling staff positions with their own resources.

I believe this is a fair approach in returning teachers to the classroom while they are being paid with your tax dollars to do the job they were hired for – educating our kids.
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