Commission says district should cap sick day buyouts; union says teachers will miss more days

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – A commission tasked with reviewing Columbus schools’ finances and operations has recommended capping unused sick day bonuses for retiring employees, and the teachers union is already hurling threats.

dollar-appleMembers of Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman’s Education Committee contend that capping unused sick day bonuses could save the district an estimated $1 million per year that could be folded back into academics, the Columbus Dispatch reports.

Teachers union president Rhonda Johnson, however, disagrees with the committee’s conclusion because she said teachers will simply take more time off, requiring the district to pay for the leave at 100 percent, as well as more substitute teachers.

Ohio law gives teachers 15 paid sick leave days each year, and in Columbus the teachers union contract states they can accumulate the unused days without limit. Teachers can take up to 10 sick days off in a row without a doctor’s note, as well as three days off to care for a relative without a note.

Unused sick days are paid out upon retirement, at a rate of 25 to 45 percent of a day’s wages, depending on the number accrued.

Columbus teachers also receive two extra paid sick days in the union contract, which are reimbursed at 50 percent if unused, according to the newspaper.

That’s 17 paid sick days per year. No wonder Ohio’s public school districts are all but broke.

But Johnson said teachers will not cooperate with the plan to cut school costs.

“People would take off a year sick” and then retire, Johnson told the committee. “It seems good on paper, but then when it gets done, it costs you more.”

Johnson may be right, if the union encourages its members to use their maximum number of sick days. But the state will still hold the trump card. It could change the very generous law that gives all teachers 15 sick days per year. Perhaps 10 would be enough, or maybe six or seven.

That way the teachers could follow through on their treat, and no great financial damage would be done.

If the union wants to play hardball, the state should play the same game.

By Victor Skinner at

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