Position Paper – Senate Bill 229 (Senator John Eichelberger)

DATE: February 6, 2017

PSBA POSITION ON Senate Bill 229 — Provides flexibility for school districts when managing professional staff

PSBA Position: Support

Dear Senator:

The Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) is writing to express our support for Senate Bill 229, legislation that removes minimum levels of sick leave, bereavement leave and sabbatical leaves and permits their negotiation at the local level.

Currently, the School Code mandates these leaves. In addition, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) also provides for unpaid, job-protected leave for specified reasons including childrearing and health related reasons. School boards adopt policies for sick leave, FMLA, uncompensated leave for various reasons, and compensated professional leaves, including sabbaticals.

As a practical matter, these issues also universally become included in collective bargaining agreements (CBA). These contracts are negotiated to allow for additional benefits related to the leaves, such as payment at retirement for not using an amount of accumulated sick days, or creation of sick leave banks. District policies can determine the coordination of paid sick leave and FMLA leave, or they can be negotiated. The CBAs also typically provide for other types of paid and unpaid leaves of absence, such as childrearing, jury duty, military service, extended disability, service as a paid union officer, etc.

The provisions under Senate Bill 229 do not prohibit or limit the ability of school boards and employee organizations to continue to negotiate these subjects, and more. The bill does not create restrictions or have a disproportionate effect on women – or men – who need time away for childrearing, medical or any other type of leave. It simply places these leaves under the umbrella of negotiations between school boards and employee organizations.

To be clear, PSBA values the contributions of professional educators in our public schools and also believes that school boards should be provided with the greatest flexibility in their ability to attract and maintain teachers and other staff. This is especially critical as boards balance budget needs with program, staff, student and community needs. Senate Bill 229 provides relief from an existing mandate and an opportunity to allow school boards more latitude in operating their schools and providing a positive working environment.

For these reasons, PSBA supports Senate Bill 229.

Summary:

Senate Bill 229 (Eichelberger): removes mandated sick and bereavement leave benefits that are required in the school code. Instead, the bill makes both subject to collective bargaining negotiations. Senate Bill 229 also eliminates an employee's entitlement to sabbatical leave. Allowing school districts to collectively bargain leave time, as opposed to mandating it would provide school districts with mandate relief and would leave the management of personal to the locally elected officials as opposed to state statute.