Where's the teach?

Last week, Gadfly noted Philadelphia Mayor John Street's bold strategy of threatening parents of truant students with jail time. Forget the students--what about the teachers? According to the school district, a staggering 6 percent of its 11,000 public school teachers (660 of Philadelphia's finest) are absent each day. When confronted with the number, union executive Jerry Jordan pointed out that it's actually "remarkable how good our teacher attendance is, particularly in light of building conditions. Many buildings are quite old, and falling down." So teachers stay home on days when they expect their schoolhouses to crumble? District officials, however, think truant teachers are motivated less by fear of falling bricks than by the details of their contracts. Philadelphia teachers who don't use all their sick days can cash them out at retirement for 25 percent of their value, a low percentage that, school leaders say, creates an incentive for teachers to use all the sick days they have each year. Their theory's only problem--most private sector jobs don't allow employees to cash out unused sick days for any percentage. Time for a crackdown. Maybe Mayor Street could lock up teachers who play hooky alongside the city's irresponsible parents--a new take on parent-teacher night, for sure.

"Teachers are truant, too, reform commissioner says," by Kristen A. Graham, Philadelphia Inquirer, December 7, 2006