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No vote yet on bill gutting paid sick days

PA Senators are considering Senate Bill 229, which would eliminate from the school code language that guarantees 10 paid sick days, bereavement leave and sabbaticals for professional development or illness for teachers, administrators and other school professionals.

Under SB 229, every union and school district would have to add paid sick, bereavement and sabbatical leaves to the list of items to be negotiated during contract talks. The bill's author, Republican Sen. John Eichelberger, chairs the Senate Education Committee, which sent the bill to the Senate floor on Reb. 7, on a 7-5 vote. Sen. Robert Thomlinson, R-Bucks County, joined the four Democrats on the committee voting against the bill. (Here's how Senate Education Committee members voted.)

Supporters claim SB 229 will save money and give districts more "flexibility." In reality, it would strip hard-working, dedicated professionals of paid sick days and leaves in the event of sickness, injury or the death of a parent, spouse or child.

"All workers should have access to leaves and paid sick days, which, for example, encourage employees who are ill, or whose children are ill, to stay home rather than go to work or send their children to school and daycare where they infect all those around them," said AFTPA President Ted Kirsch.

Proponents claim this legislation is "fair" because other public employees do not have state-mandated sick days and sabbaticals. However, educators are subject to many special statutory requirements, such as state-mandated teacher evaluations. In the interest of "fairness," does the legislature plan to eliminate evaluations and rating systems as well?

"Pennsylvania faces a severe teacher shortage," Kirsch said. According to the PA Department of Education, people seeking teacher certifications declined 61 percent, from 18,590 in 2013 to just 7,180 in 2015. At Pennsylvania’s public universities, undergraduates choosing education as their major plunged to 11,583 in 2015 from a high of 18,287 six years earlier.

"With the shortage expected to reach crisis proportions next year, this is not the time to make teaching – an already challenging profession – even less attractive to new entrants or to drive highly-qualified, dedicated, veteran teachers out of our classrooms with regressive, anti-teacher legislation," Kirsch added.

Read SB 229

Bill wants educators to bargain sick days (Philadelphia Tribune, 2/14/2017)

Bill to cut teacher sick days moving in PA (ABC 27, 2/14/2017)

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