Clarifying Detroit Schools Release Time Policy

Judge Rhodes points out oversight in op-ed

In a recent Detroit News op-ed I wrote about a practice called “release time,” where union officials are kept on government payrolls and allowed to do union work on the taxpayer’s time. This happens in many school districts across the state.

Detroit Public Schools provides release time for union officials, but the union reimburses most of these expenses, an important point that I did not clarify but should have. In a letter to the editor, Judge Stephen Rhodes called out this oversight and he is correct.

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The information I reported was based on Freedom of Information Act responses from the State of Michigan and DPS. The state identified seven DPS employees who were on union release time. DPS reported being reimbursed for the president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers.

His salary in 2015 was $89,381, according to state records, and the district reported being reimbursed for a total of $108,322. This appears to cover his salary and health benefits, but not the full contribution taxpayers must make towards funding his pension — which amount to about 36 percent of an employee’s salary. So, the full cost of the union president’s release time may not be completely reimbursed, and taxpayers are at least in part funding this arrangement.

Judge Rhodes also objected to me calling DPS “the worst offender” when it comes to school districts granting this privilege to union officials, because many other school districts do not even receive partial reimbursement. Detroit still stands out because they have seven union officials on release time when no other district reports having more than two.

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