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New bill to bust ‘ghost teachers’ advances

By   /   June 7, 2016  /   News  /   No Comments

Part 27 of 28 in the series Pennsylvania's Ghost Teachers

A new bill seeking to bust Pennsylvania ghost teachers is on the move.

House Bill 2125, sponsored by state Rep. Rick Saccone, R-Allegheny, would place strict regulations on the number of teachers allowed to leave the classroom to work full-time for their unions while still drawing a public salary, benefits and school seniority.

legis.state.pa.us

GHOST BUSTER: Pennsylvania Rep. Rick Saccone, R-Allegheny, introduced a bill that would limit the number of teachers allowed to leave their jobs to work for unions.

The bill cleared the House Education Committee this week on a 15-9 vote and now goes to the  floor for a vote.

“Recent news articles have shed light on the problem of ‘ghost teachers’ – individuals who receive monetary compensation and benefits, including retirement benefits, from their public school employer while on leave from school employment to perform union duties,” Saccone said. “Currently, the Public School Code does not restrict this practice, which misdirects valuable tax dollars that should be used to provide for teachers who are actually working in the classroom to educate our children.”

Dozens of Pennsylvania school districts allow a number of teachers to leave the classroom each year to work full-time for unions as members of the collective bargaining team, information officers and political operatives. The practice is also known as “release time” or “official time” and is typically part of the teachers’ contract.

Saccone’s bill joins two other pieces of legislation moving through Harrisburg that would bar the practice in some capacity.

House Bill 1649, introduced last year by Reps. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York, and Jim Christiana, R-Beaver/Washington, seeks to stop unions in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh from pulling teachers out of the classroom. Senate Bill 1140, introduced in March by Sen. Pat Stefano, R-32nd district, goes a step further and aims to outlaw the practice entirely in Pennsylvania.

Both of those bills remain with the Education Committee.

Saccone’s bill takes a different tack.

Instead of letting local unions employ ghost teachers, HB 2125 would allow statewide unions such as the Pennsylvania State Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers Pennsylvania to take up to three teachers out of the classroom.

The measure also would limit their release time to no more than six years, and teachers would not be allowed to do union work for more than three consecutive days at a time, or a total of 15 days per school year.

The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers is currently permitted to take up to 63 teachers out of schools each year. The PFT has also had several officers on release time for more than 30 years, with President Jerry Jordan and VP Arlene Kempin on leave since the 1980s.

Related: Taxpayers subsidize union politics of “ghost teachers”

In Allentown, the district pays the full salary and benefits of the local teachers union president. None of that money is reimbursed.

The Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System, which administers teacher pensions, recently declared Allentown Education Association President Debra Tretter is not entitled to the six years of pension credits she accrued since she became a ghost teacher in 2009.

The Allentown School District has paid more than $1.3 million to cover union bosses’ salary and benefits since 2000.

The practice is being challenged in court in Allentown and in Philadelphia, where last year 16 ghost teachers earned more than $1.5 million.

The School District of Philadelphia said it is reimbursed by the union. The AEA pays nothing back to Allentown.

“By significantly limiting the number of public school staff who may take union leave, and by requiring union reimbursement for salary, substitute costs and benefits where union leave does occur, our legislation will save taxpayer resources that can then be appropriately allocated directly to the classroom,” Saccone said.

Part of 28 in the series Pennsylvania's Ghost Teachers
  1. Philly ghost teachers made more than $1.7M last year
  2. Week in Review: Plenty of scary news for Pennsylvania taxpayers
  3. PA Week in Review: Beer battles continue dispute veto of liquor bill
  4. Week in Review: Kane target of more investigations
  5. Pennsylvania labor union leaders blast 401(k) plans they offer their own staff
  6. Pennsylvania labor union leaders blast 401(k) plans they offer their own staff
  7. Education week-in-review: Ghosts and quotas
  8. Lawsuit aims to bust Philadelphia ‘ghost teachers’
  9. Lawsuit aims to bust Philadelphia ‘ghost teachers’
  10. Fairness group files lawsuit over ‘ghost teachers’
  11. Philly ghost teachers made more than $1.7M last year
  12. Education week-in-review: Ghost teachers and the ghost of Jim Crow
  13. Judge grants ‘ghost teachers’ freedom to roam
  14. How lawyers plan to bust Philadelphia’s ‘ghost teachers’
  15. How lawyers plan to bust Philadelphia’s ‘ghost teachers’
  16. Pennsylvania lawmakers plan to take on ‘ghost teachers’
  17. Lawmakers plan to take on ‘ghost teachers’
  18. Pennsylvania lawmakers introduce a bill to bust ‘ghost teachers’
  19. Pennsylvania lawmakers introduce a bill to bust ‘ghost teachers’
  20. Taxpayers subsidize union politics of ‘ghost teachers’
  21. Lawsuit takes aim at Allentown ‘ghost teachers’
  22. Senate bill aims to bust ‘ghost teachers’
  23. Allentown schools cry poverty, pay ‘ghost teachers’
  24. Study: Absent Philly teachers cost district millions
  25. Philly ‘ghost teachers’ making $1.5 million this year
  26. Pension agency: Ghost teachers ‘must be removed’
  27. New bill to bust ‘ghost teachers’ advances
  28. Pennsylvania pension agency docks ‘ghost teachers’ credit

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Evan was formerly a Pennsylvania-based education reporter for Watchdog.org.