Nearly 25% of Pa. School Districts Authorize Ghost Teachers
March 29, 2017, HARRISBURG, Pa.—Today, the Senate Education Committee passed SB 494 banning “ghost teachers” who drain resources from public schools to work full-time for teachers’ unions.
A Commonwealth Foundation analysis of Pennsylvania’s 500 school district contracts reveals up to 198 former district employees may work full-time for the teachers’ union while remaining on public payroll.
These ghost teachers are teachers in name only; many haven’t taught in decades and will never return to the classroom. In some cases, ghost teachers receive taxpayer-funded salaries, gain seniority, and accrue pension and health benefits while working for a private organization. This practice is sometimes called “release time” or “union release.”
This is a blatant misuse of resources meant to educate children.
Nearly 25 percent of school districts—111 of 500—authorize ghost teachers in their collective bargaining agreements. A full list is available here.
“This is a blatant misuse of resources meant to educate children,” commented James Paul, senior policy analyst for the Commonwealth Foundation. “The full senate should act on this legislation to ensure every public education dollar is benefitting students, not special interests.”
SB 494 would ban full-time union release in all school districts, allowing up to 30 days of leave for administrative duties in any one year.
The interactive map below shows which school districts authorize ghost teachers and how many are authorized in each county. Click here for an online, embeddable version.
“Disturbingly, when we asked school districts for data on how much release time was used and how much it cost the district, we were often met with a shrug,” continued Paul. “Many districts were simply unable to provide these basic details about how they were managing taxpayer-funded resources. This should raise a huge red flag to anyone who values transparency and accountability in our public education system.”
According to an ongoing lawsuit filed by the Fairness Center on behalf of two Allentown taxpayers, Allentown School District has paid local teachers’ union presidents $1.3 million since 2000 without reimbursement. Pension credits for these ghost teachers were revoked as a result of the lawsuit.
Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan is one of up to 63 district employees authorized to work full-time for the union. This year, Jordan celebrated 30 years of receiving a teachers’ salary and benefits without having taught a class in that time.
James Paul and other Commonwealth Foundation experts are available for comment. Please contact Gina Diorio at 862-703-6670 or firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an interview.
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