Time to Send “Ghost Teachers” Back to the Future

As 1980s movie buffs know, today—Oct 21, 2015—is the day Marty McFly and Doc Brown traveled forward in time in the Back to the Future films. Back to the Future predicted a few things right, and a few things wrong about life in 2015.

But one thing Marty and Doc never expected to see 30 years later is Jerry Jordan—head of the Philadelphia teachers’ union—still working as a ghost teacher. Jordan has been on release time—employed as a “teacher” with the Philadelphia school district, but in reality working for the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers—since 1985.

That’s the same year Marty and Doc left from the present—and in the real world, the same year Back to the Future was the number one movie in America.

Yesterday, Representatives Kristin Phillips Hill and Jim Christiana introduced legislation that would put an end to ghost teachers. House Bill 1649 prohibits employees on public school payroll from leaving the classroom to work full-time for unions. Currently, in school districts like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, dozens of employees working for the union remain on school district payrolls (often with the union reimbursing for salaries).

For example, in Philadelphia, due to union contracts, up to 63 district employees can work full-time for the union. In Pittsburgh, up to 16 district employees can work full-time for the union.

These ghost teachers continue to accrue seniority and pension benefits, despite being out of the classroom for many years—and in some cases, like Jerry Jordan, for decades.

This practice in Philadelphia is currently the subject of a lawsuit. You can read more about that case from our friends at the Fairness Center. 

For better or worse, we don't have flying cars or self-adjusting clothes in 2015. But we can fix the archaic system of union release time and send ghost teachers “Back to the Future”…or rather, back to the classroom.