Pennsylvania Bucks County teachers are allowed up to 35 days a year off from actual teaching to instead work for their union, according to the contract negotiated between the Pennsbury school district and the Pennsbury Education Association, the local teachers union.
These types of contracts are commonplace across the state, said Simon Campbell, president of StopTeacherStrikes, Inc., and board director of the Pennsbury school district. “I’ve read a lot of union contracts. From the contracts I’ve reviewed this is very commonplace, unfortunately. There seems to be a mindset among those who like the status quo that it is acceptable to pay teachers for time when they are working for the union when they should be teaching our students.”
In the Pennsbury contract it states “A total of thirty-five (35) teacher days upon request with advance notice will be granted for Association business,” which Mr. Campbell says is separate from vacation days or other paid-time off. The contract was originally for 2005-2009 but was renewed through June 2010.
“When it comes to the 35 days off, the request must be accompanied with a note of the reason for the leave. From the list of reasons I have seen at Pennsbury, local teacher union officials deserting the students in their classrooms to attend the state union’s (PSEA) semi-annual “Hall of Delegates” is a popular reason.”
When a teacher take this time off, the school pays for a substitute in addition to paying the teacher’s normal salary, even while they are not in the classroom.
Paying for work not related to educating students is not limited just to staff teachers but also extends to the president of the local union, said Mr. Campbell. In a board meeting recorded on February 18 Andy Raffle, chair of Better Pennsbury and a local taxpayer, asked whether the George Miller, president of the union was allowed to take one of the school’s four teaching periods for union business, with no impact on his salary of more than $90,000. The board confirmed that Mr. Miller was allowed to teach for 75 percent of that time and work for the union the other 25 percent, paid for by taxpayers. (Recording of board meeting)
“It is an egregious misuse of public money,” said Mr. Campbell, but “too many school boards and administrators take the view that it’s just been going on so long that they don’t really care.”
The Pennsylvania State Education Association (PStEA) teachers union did not return calls for comment, but the Pennsylvania Department of Education said practices like this were handled by individual school districts.
“That would all be decided locally because the state has no role in that. That would all be stipulated in the local bargaining agreements,” said Michael Reyes, spokesperson for the department.
Mr. Campbell confirmed no there are no laws in Pennsylvania currently prohibiting these stipulations, but a bill in Utah addressing the same issue just passed the local Senate and there may soon be such legislation before Pennsylvania’s General Assembly.