Failing to show up for work is usually grounds for dismissal, but for Gov. Wolf, it’s reason for promotion.
In nominating Jerry Oleksiak as the next Secretary of Labor & Industry, Gov. Wolf highlighted Oleksiak’s 32 years in the classroom. But since 2007, Oleksiak hasn’t shown up for his job as a special education teacher in the Upper Merion Area School District. Instead, he’s been a ghost teacher, skipping school for a decade to work full-time for Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA).
Oleksiak has been a PSEA officer since 2007, holding titles including treasurer, vice president, and president—all while calling himself a teacher, accruing seniority, and amassing public pension credit. Furthermore, Oleksiak’s union is one of Pennsylvania’s biggest political players, spending nearly $42 million—collected by taxpayers—on political activity since 2007. Since 2013, the union has contributed more than $1 million to Wolf.
“By nominating a ghost teacher from one of his biggest political backers for a cabinet position, Wolf is prioritizing politics over Pennsylvanians,” commented James Paul, senior policy analyst with the Commonwealth Foundation.
As the state Senate considers this nomination, lawmakers should refuse to reward a ghost teacher with a cabinet-level leadership position.
Oleksiak isn’t the only truant PSEA staffer, nor is he the only ghost teacher in the Wolf administration. Records show the union’s vice president Dolores McCracken and treasurer Richard Askey have also been ghost teachers. And Education Secretary Pedro Rivera worked for the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers while employed by the School District of Philadelphia.
Local PSEA affiliates have similarly abused public school resources. The Allentown and Reading school districts are facing lawsuits over their union ghost teacher practices, which together have cost taxpayers nearly $2 million.
Erie and Lancaster school districts, also organized by PSEA affiliates, recently suspended long-running ghost teacher provisions after media attention was brought to the issue, though taxpayers are still on the hook for costs.
“Anyone who values ethics and transparency should be deeply concerned that Gov. Wolf’s nominee to lead Labor & Industry has abused the state’s pension and education system for years, robbing students of a classroom teacher and collecting pension credit while working for a private, extremely political organization,” Paul continued. “As the state Senate considers this nomination, lawmakers should refuse to reward a ghost teacher with a cabinet-level leadership position.”
Find out more about ghost teachers at CommonwealthFoundation.org/ghost.
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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