The Senate Education Committee this week approved legislation sponsored by Senator Pat Stefano (R-32) that would ban the practices of allowing teachers to work full-time for the teachers’ union while remaining on the public payroll.
The committee endorsed SB 494, legislation that would bar public school teachers from working full-time for their collective bargaining agent while remaining on their district’s payroll. These teachers are commonly referred to as “ghost teachers.”
A recent analysis of Pennsylvania’s 500 school district contracts found that up to 198 former district employees may work full-time for the teachers’ union while remaining on public payroll. Over 20% percent of school districts—111 of 500—authorize ghost teachers in their collective bargaining agreements.
“These ghost teachers receive taxpayer-funded salaries, health benefits and pensions, yet they may never return to the classroom or engage in actual teaching,” Stefano said. “This should not be allowed or tolerated because it is a blatant misuse of taxpayer dollars and drains money and resources away from our classrooms and our students.”
Under current law, a collective bargaining agreement between a union and a school district can require the district to allow work arrangements where school district employees work full-time for the union while remaining on the district’s payroll.
This type of arrangement is often known as official time, release time or union leave. The teachers continue to receive their full salary and benefits – paid for by the district – and to accrue time towards their pension, even though they are not in a classroom. While districts often receive reimbursement for the cost of the employee’s salary, neither the school district nor the state receives reimbursements for the increase in their pension costs.
“If a teacher decides that they want to change their career path and work for their union on educational issues that’s their choice and their right. They should not have the right to involve their school district or the taxpayers financially in that career choice,” Stefano added.
“At a time of tight budgets, rising property taxes and taxpayer concerns over increasing education costs, I believe that teachers should be in the classroom,” Stefano said. “By prohibiting this practice in collective bargaining agreements, we are protecting taxpayers and ensuring that the money they pay is being used to provide a good education for their children.”