News Story

99 Teachers In This District Do Union Work on Taxpayers’ Dime — 1 of every 15

Statewide, 177 school employees paid by their districts to do union work at taxpayer expense

As a Utica Community Schools employee, Eliza Parkinson has a base salary of $107,402 in 2017-18. Most of the time, though, she operates as a “ghost teacher” — someone who is paid to educate students but in reality spends the work day on union business. Of her salary, $92,430 is for work done on behalf of the teachers union, for which Parkinson serves as the official representative to the district.

Parkinson is one of 99 Utica teachers this school year who are being paid by the district for performing union-related activities at the school. The figure was provided through an open records request to the state Office of Retirement Services, which keeps records on public payrolls. The district said there are 97 teachers it will have paid for some amount of union work. The union also reimburses the school district for costs incurred when negotiations are conducted during work time.

Utica Community Schools has 1,447 full-time teaching positions this year. The district’s contract with the teachers union allows the union president to give out 100 days of so-called release time to other school employees, who are then paid by the district for doing union business.

District teachers received various amounts of pay for doing union work, with Parkinson earning the most and the lowest getting $161. All told this school year, Utica Community Schools will pay up to $193,686 to school employees to perform union-related activities. This compensation also counts towards the calculations used to determine the educator’s pension.

The union contract allows one full-time school employee to be a full-time union representative. The union reimburses the district at the rate of a first-year teacher’s pay, which is $39,310 in the current contract.

In the current school year, 177 public school employees across the state are paid by their districts to perform union duties for some portion of their time. Altogether, school districts will pay employees up to $1,877,126 to perform union business this year. The state doesn’t track whether unions reimburse those school districts for this expense.

Legislation has been introduced to ban the use of taxpayer dollars to pay public employees for union work. The proposed law is Senate Bill 795 which has passed committee but not been taken up yet in the full Senate or House. In 2015, a similar bill passed a Republican Senate but was not taken up by a Republican House.

“Each dollar these school districts spend on union lobbyists is a dollar taken from classrooms,” said Sen. Marty Knollenberg, a Republican from Troy and vice chairman of the Senate Education Committee, in a statement when the bill was first introduced. “The last thing parents and taxpayers should have to worry about is whether money is being siphoned out of classrooms to pay for lobbyists.”

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.