By Victor Skinner
LANSFORD, Pa. – A Pennsylvania teacher will receive a hefty check from Panther Valley schools after years of legal wrangling over the elimination of his position in 2006.
That’s because a judge has decided that the school must continue to employ a teacher it no longer needs. Imagine if the same applied to private businesses. They would be choked to death by labor expenses if they weren’t allowed to lay off employees during tough times.
But of course public schools don’t go out of business. They just gouge more from taxpayers when they aren’t allowed to shed unnecessary costs.
More than six years after the Panther Valley school board voted to end an alternative education program and cancel the contract of physical education teacher Christopher West, the board voted to pay the former instructor $82,435.99 to settle a grievance over his termination, the News Times reports.
The payment was ordered to settle “a long-running series of lawsuits, appeals and rulings,” according to the news site.
District officials decided to cancel Thomas’ employment in August 2006 after ending the alternative education program in which he taught.
The teachers union immediately filed a grievance over the termination, the matter went to arbitration, and an arbitrator ruled the district should reinstate the teacher and “pay him the wages, seniority and benefits due from Aug. 11 2006 until the date of his reinstatement,” the Times News reports.
In 2009 the school district appealed the arbitrator’s ruling, but a trial court denied the appeal. The following year, the Commonwealth Court affirmed the initial arbitrator’s ruling, and the district appealed again.
Judge Robert J. Thomas of the Carbon County Court of Common Pleas ordered the final settlement.
It was all a massive waste of time and money, and the money-soaking education bureaucracy is to blame.
There is no reason it should take six years and dozens of legal meetings, court hearings, appeals and rulings to terminate a teacher from a school district that no longer needs his services. In this case, three of the teacher’s evaluations were satisfactory and his last was unsatisfactory, and disagreements over the significance of that likely dominated much of the proceedings.
It shouldn’t have. Even if the teacher had excellent evaluations, the school should not be required to keep anyone employed simply because the person is “entitled” to it. Public schools are paid for with tax dollars from hardworking citizens who have no guaranteed employment or special job protections.
Through decades of collective bargaining, teachers unions have locked in job protections for public school teachers that are beyond unreasonable. In many cases, schools are forced to employ teachers they can’t afford because the union contract says so.
And as the Panther Valley case makes clear, districts that attempt to remove teachers they no longer need could face years of legal expenses and time-consuming hearings only to end up writing that teacher a massive check six years later.
Something needs to change … now!