For Immediate Release
The Fairness Center
Contact: Cindy Hamill
PFT ‘Ghost Teachers’ Do Union Work on School Time
Lawsuit Filed Today Says Union Practice is Abusive and Illegal
February 25, 2015, PHILADELPHIA, Pa.—What’s a ghost teacher? What else would you
call a certified School District of Philadelphia teacher earning a publicly-funded salary, enjoying cost-free health benefits, accruing a state pension, and building up years of seniority without having taught a class in over a decade? It’s true: More than 20 of these ghost teachers are working full-time as union bosses for the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers right now—even as city schools face staffing shortages and budget strain.
A lawsuit filed in Philadelphia County court today by the Fairness Center on behalf of its client Americans for Fair Treatment seeks to end the practice of union work on school time, which illegally uses public resources for the benefit of a private organization.
"While teaching vacancies go unfilled, PFT leaders are pulling teachers out of the classroom and diverting public resources meant for education to their own private use," commented David Osborne, general counsel for the Fairness Center. "We found that most of these teachers have been absent from classrooms for more than 15 years.
Incredibly, PFT President Jerry Jordan is technically a district teacher who has
been on paid leave for almost 30 years, accruing teaching seniority and pension
benefits all the while. Philadelphia students need all their teachers in the
classroom—not ghost teachers getting paid to skip school and work for a union."
Press Conference in Center City Philadelphia Today at 11 a.m.
Osborne and Nate Bohlander, assistant general counsel for the Fairness Center, will be joined by Kristina Rasmussen, a spokesperson for Americans for Fair Treatment, and George Coates, an Americans for Fair Treatment member and Philadelphia taxpayer.
Location: American Executive Centers, Suite 1200, 1515 Market St., Philadelphia, Pa, 19102
Union work on school time, sometimes called "release time," "official time," or
"union leave," is particularly egregious in Philadelphia where the district’s
collective bargaining agreement with the PFT allows up to 63 ghost teachers like
Jerry Jordan to:
• Receive a publicly-funded district salary
• Retain district-provided insurance and benefits
• Accrue seniority as if they were still teaching
• Receive credit toward state pensions
Osborne noted: "In the cost-conscious world of Philadelphia education, it’s stunning that the collective bargaining agreement currently in place does not require the PFT to reimburse the district for any of these costs. The district is effectively propping up the PFT machine and losing oversight over its own employees."
Hard working city teachers are suffering as a consequence: Under the district’s
"last-in, first-out" policy, a teacher with years of dedicated classroom teaching experience would be fired before one of these ghost teachers, if layoffs became necessary. Osborne says this is unfair: "If Jerry Jordan returned to the classroom today, he would have nearly three decades of additional teaching seniority built up for doing union work, not for teaching kids. This is profoundly unfair and denigrates the sacrifices made by committed teachers."
"Though some reimbursement is occurring, the extent is unclear, and the contract
does not require PFT to pay the district back. What is clear is that state law does not require PFT to reimburse the state’s portion of ghost teachers’ pensions, costing the state about $1 million by itself since 1999. Plain and simple: this is a special interest serving its own ends at the expense of Philadelphia’s students and teachers and is a violation of state law that must be stopped."
Americans for Fair Treatment is a nonprofit membership organization which equips and empowers Americans to receive fair treatment from government unions. For more information, visit TheAFT.org.
David Osborne is available for comment today. Contact Cindy Hamill at (856)–607–4208 to schedule an interview.
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The Fairness Center is a nonprofit, public interest law firm offering free legal
services to those facing unjust treatment from public employee union leaders. For more information visit www.FairnessCenter.org.