Michigan Taxpayers Spend Over $3 Million a Year on Union Release Time

Mackinac Center releases new data for union time on the taxpayer dime

Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015

Contact: Anne Schieber 989-430-6131

MIDLAND – Michigan taxpayers are on the hook for at least $3 million to provide union officials with “release time,” an arrangement where school districts pay employees to work on union business rather than teaching students. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy has released new research based on data from every school district in the state examining this practice for school employees.

At least 70 public school districts in Michigan have release time agreements with local unions where taxpayers pay for a school employee to work part- or full-time on union business, instead of in the classroom.

These arrangements range in cost, with several districts paying over $100,000 a year. These include Chippewa Valley, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Warren and Wayne-Westland.

Taylor Schools, outside of Detroit, employs four people who spent a significant part of every day working for the local union rather than taxpayers. That district has run significant deficits in recent years.

“When taxpayers fund release time for government employees, they are paying them to work for a private entity rather than the public,” said Jarrett Skorup, a policy analyst at the Mackinac Center. “This scheme costs taxpayers twice – once to pay for the union official’s salary and again to pay for a replacement in the classroom.”

Sen. Marty Knollenberg, R-Troy, recently sponsored Senate Bill 280, which would prohibit publicly funded release time. Officials may still take time from regular duties to handle union business, but the bill would require the association to shoulder the cost of that time rather than taxpayers. The bill has passed the Senate Commerce Committee and is awaiting a vote in the full Senate.

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