Education Panel Endorses Bills to End Practice of “Ghost Teachers,” Require a Super Majority Vote for School Boards to Raise Taxes

HARRISBURG (March 29, 2017) –  The Senate Education Committee today approved two bills intended to protect taxpayers, control spending, and ensure that education dollars are spent wisely, according to Senator John H. Eichelberger, Jr. (R-Blair), who chairs the panel.

The committee passed SB 494, sponsored by Senator Pat Stefano (R-Fayette), which will bar public school teachers from working full-time for their collective bargaining agent while remaining on their district’s payroll.  These teachers are commonly referred to as “ghost teachers.”  Under current law, a collective bargaining agreement between a union and a school district can require the district to allow work arrangements where school district employees work full-time for the union while remaining on the district’s payroll.  This type of arrangement is often known as official time, release time or union leave.  The teachers continue to receive their full salary and benefits – paid for by the district – and to accrue time towards their pension, even though they are not in a classroom.

“During an era of tight budgets and taxpayer concerns over increasing education costs, it is imperative that teachers on a school district’s payroll actually be in a classroom, teaching students,” Eichelberger said.  “By banning this provision in collective bargaining agreements, this legislation will ensure a more effective use of public school resources and funds.”

The committee also approved SB 406, sponsored by Senator John Rafferty (R-Montgomery), which would require a “super majority” vote for school boards to raise taxes.  The bill would amend the Public School Code to require all millage property tax increases to be approved by a two-thirds majority vote by the members elected to the board of school directors.

“Taxpayers are rightfully concerned that property taxes continue to increase, as does school spending,” Eichelberger said. “I believe there should be a compelling need and strong support by the board before property taxes go up.”

The legislation would provide greater taxpayer protections and ensure that school boards of directors first seek to control spending before raising taxes.

Please contact Patrick Schurr, Executive Assistant, at 814-695-8386 or email pschurr@pasen.gov for additional information.