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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: January 22, 2016 01:47 PM
From: Senator Patrick J. Stefano
To: All Senate members
Subject: Legislation banning "ghost teachers" on school district payrolls
I am introducing legislation that will 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.”

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.

This legislation amends Act 14 of 1949 (the Public School Code) by adding a new section that bans this type of leave in a collective bargaining agreement between a school district and a union. A district employee working for the union cannot continue to accrue benefits, seniority and credits for service while doing so.

Full-time union leave is defined as an arrangement under which the employee receives full or partial compensation from the school district, while on leave from employment for more than three consecutive weekdays or 30 total weekdays during the school year, to work for the union. Sabbatical leave, military leave and leave for elected public office are exempt from the legislation.

In Philadelphia, at least 18 teachers who never set foot in a classroom last year received over $1.7 million from the school district while performing union work during school hours. In Pittsburgh, these employees have received up to $1.02 million annually. While the union has reimbursed these two districts for much of these costs, it is not legally required to do so. The Commonwealth is still required to make its contributions to cover the pensions of teachers on union leave, and has spent more than $1 million doing so since 2000. Another concern is that the district has no knowledge or control over what teachers are doing while on this type of leave. The teachers could be working toward goals that the district believes could be harmful to its operation.

This practice has been most common in the Philadelphia School District and Pittsburgh School District, but it has occurred in school districts throughout the Commonwealth. Last year, I attended a retired teacher’s luncheon and sat next to such an individual who was “on leave” from a Fayette County School District. This prompted me to research this issue more in depth and what I found was very disturbing to me. My legislation will therefore apply to all school districts in the Commonwealth.

During an era of tight budgets and taxpayer concerns over increasing education costs, it is imperative that teachers on a school district’s payroll actually be in a classroom, teaching students. By banning this provision in collective bargaining agreements, this legislation will ensure a more effective use of public school resources and funds. This legislation will return taxpayer resources to the classroom by putting an end to the practice of “full-time union leave.” Teachers will be in the classroom, rather than working for a private organization while being paid by taxpayer dollars.

Introduced as SB1140