January 13, 2021

Paying teachers not to teach, or paying firefighters not to fight fires: It makes no sense, right? But it’s still common in places across America. The Goldwater Institute is fighting back against this unconstitutional abuse of taxpayers’ rights—and this week, Goldwater Director of National Litigation Jon Riches joins “The Education Exchange” podcast with Hoover Institution fellow Paul E. Peterson to talk about it.

This abuse is known as “release time,” where government employees receive their full salary and benefits not to do the jobs they were hired to do, but instead to work for their unions. The Goldwater Institute is challenging release time under state constitution “gift clauses” or “anti-aid clauses” in Arizona, Texas, and New Jersey. Riches co-authored an op-ed last week for the Wall Street Journal discussing our New Jersey case, where we’re challenging a collective bargaining agreement in Jersey City which required a school district to pay the salaries of two full-time teachers who did not spend their time educating children, but instead performed full-time union work. (The case came before New Jersey’s Supreme Court in October 2020, and we are currently awaiting the court’s ruling.)

As Riches explains on the podcast, release time is a pervasive problem—not just in New Jersey, but across the United States. In research conducted throughout 2020, Goldwater Institute National Investigative Journalist Mark Flatten found that release time exists in more than 30 of the country’s largest school districts. To make matters worse, many districts don’t even track release time, meaning that it’s likely a far more widespread issue than we can possibly know.

On the podcast, Riches talks about Goldwater’s research on release time and our New Jersey lawsuit, as well as some of our additional recent efforts to fight these violations of taxpayer rights in court. You can listen to the full podcast above.

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