The Philadelphia school district is in a near-constant state of financial crisis. There are many factors contributing to this sorry state–particularly its governance structure–but it is compounded by fiscal mismanagement. One particularly egregious example is paying six-figure salaries to the tune of $1.5 million a year to “ghost teachers” that do not teach. Pennsylvania Watchdog explains:
As part of the contract with the School District of Philadelphia, the local teachers union is permitted to take up to 63 teachers out of the classroom to work full-time for the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. The practice, known as “release time” or “official time,” allows public school teachers to leave the classroom and continue to earn a public salary, benefits, pension and seniority.
These so-called ghost teachers perform a variety of jobs for the PFT, serving as either information officers for other teachers or carrying out the union’s political agenda.
“Teachers should be paid to teach,” attorney Kara Sweigart, who is arguing ghost teacher lawsuits for the Fairness Center, a free legal service for employees who feel they’ve been wronged by their unions, told Watchdog.
“At a time when school districts are hurting financially, districts should be devoting every tax dollar to support students,” she said, “not to pay the salaries of employees of a private political organization.”
According to public salary data available through Philadelphia city agencies, the school district is paying 16 ghost teachers $1.5 million this year. All of them are making at least $81,000.
In less than an hour, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in one of the most important cases of the year, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association.
If a teacher opts out of her union, but the union refuses to hear it, did she really opt out?
Even where state lawmakers have passed “right-to-work” laws legally enabling teachers to opt out of paying union dues, the practical ability to opt out is far from guaranteed. In Michigan, for example–where dues can cost up to $640 a year–the teachers union surreptitiously created new bureaucratic hoops for teachers attempting to opt out.
In an apparent effort to make it even more difficult or even stop school employees from exercising their right under right-to-work to not pay union dues or fees, the state’s largest teachers union has quietly set up an obscure post office box address to which members must send the required opt-out paperwork. It’s P.O. Box 51 East Lansing, MI 48826.
Based on a letter the Michigan Education Association sent to members who had tried to get out, and discussions with some of them, resignation requests sent to the regular union headquarters address will not be honored.
An extensive search of the union’s websites found references to the post office box address on just one page of MEA’s main website, and on one affiliate union’s website. There is no record of this post office box address existing before this month. In the past, union members who wanted to opt out just had to send notification to the address of the MEA’s headquarters in East Lansing.
The MEA had previously restricted the union dues opt-out period to the month of August until a judge ruled that the restriction was illegal. As reported in Michigan Capitol Confidential, about 5,000 teachers left the MEA last year despite the obstacles.
Earlier this year, Florida’s largest teachers union filed a legal challenge to prevent the expansion of school choice. As I explained then:
The Florida Education Association is suing the state of Florida to eliminate the new Personal Learning Scholarship Account (PLSA) program, among other recent education reforms, including an expansion of the state’s scholarship tax credit law. Modeled after Arizona’s popular education savings account (ESA), the PLSA would provide ESAs to families of students with special needs, which they could use to pay for a wide variety of educational expenses, such as tuition, tutoring, textbooks, online learning, and educational therapy. Six families with special-needs children who would have qualified for the program are seeking to intervene as defendants in the lawsuit, represented by the Goldwater Institute’s Clint Bolick.
Today a circuit court judge dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue because they could not show how they were harmed by the law. Last month, the New Hampshire Supreme Court unanimously ruled that plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge the Granite State’s scholarship tax credit law because they also could not demonstrate that they suffered any harm.
…President Obama and Congress were doling out tens-of-billions of dollars to the education status quo while doing little of meaningful, reform-y substance.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis latest release of industry compensation levels shows that the average federal worker ranks up at the top along with employees in the finance and energy industries. That’s not exactly popular company these days.
…Sparta, New Jersey that is. Like their fellow citizens in 54 percent of school districts across the state, the people of Sparta rejected their local district’s proposed budget yesterday.
Since man bites dog stories are all the rage lately, I thought it might be a good time for me to point out that the rising Democratic attacks on teachers unions are largely misdirected.
Charles Krauthammer’s latest column is titled “The Union-Owned Democrats.” In it, he recounts a litany of economically ruinous actions being pursued by unions around the country, from blocking free trade agreements to hobbling Boeing’s efforts to compete with Airbus. He writes that “unions need Democrats — who deliver quite faithfully,” and that “Democrats need unions.”
Like a hole in the head.