Commentary

How Public Schools Waste Money: Sick Teachers in Newark Edition

Excessive teacher absences offer one more reason to be skeptical of the need for a teacher bailout. Maybe districts like Newark should just pay the substitutes who actually show up to work. Similar to the auto industry, school districts personnel practices and institutional structures are largely responsible for budget deficits as per pupil dollars are diverted from the classroom by policies that are unsustainable. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Nearly half of all Newark teachers took at least two weeks of sick leave last year, and more than a quarter of them took three weeks or more off.

The district instituted an attendance-improvement program in October, but even so about 7% of the district’s teachers are absent on an average day, nearly twice the urban-district average of 4%, said Valerie Merritt, a spokeswoman for the system. . . .

Most Newark teachers get 18 paid sick and personal days off during the school year, and those with 25 years or more of service get up to 28 days out of their 191-day school year. By contrast, in New York City, teachers get 10 sick days and three of those can be used for personal business.

sick teachers

Lisa Snell is the director of education and child welfare at Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank advancing free minds and free markets.

Snell has frequently testified before the California State Legislature and numerous other state legislatures and government agencies. She has authored policy studies on school finance and weighted student funding, universal preschool, school violence, charter schools, and child advocacy centers.

Snell is a frequent contributor to Reason magazine, School Reform News and Privatization Watch. Her writing has also appeared in Education Week, Edutopia, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, San Francisco Chronicle, Orange County Register, Los Angeles Times, and numerous other publications.

Ms. Snell is also an advisory board member to the National Quality Improvement Center for the Children's Bureau; is on the charter school accreditation team for the American Academy for Liberal Education; and serves as a board member for the California Virtual Academy.

Before joining Reason Foundation, Snell taught public speaking and argumentation courses at California State University, Fullerton. She earned a Master of Arts in communication from California State University, Fullerton.