A story generating a lot of discussion today concerns how former Philadelphia Schools Superintendent Arlene Ackerman, who is receiving $905,000 in severance, has applied for unemployment benefits, and has been promised that the school district will not contest her claim.
Not so fast, people. I searched Google and Google News briefly, and found an interesting aspect of the situation which no one in the media apparently wants to consider. It relates to how Ackerman's employment ended. One of many place where that ending is described came from Matt Petrillo at Philadelphia Weekly just three weeks ago. It began thusly: "It’s been 11 weeks since the School Reform Commission unanimously voted to fire public school boss lady Arlene Ackerman." A quick visit to the relevant page at the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry would appear to indicate that Ackerman should not get unemployment benefits, and that it shouldn't matter whether the district contests her claim:
Who Can File for Benefits
Any individual who has become unemployed may file an application for UC benefits. Eligibility to receive those benefits will be dependent on whether the worker meets the various requirements specified in the Pennsylvania UC Law.
... To be Eligible to Receive Benefits
A worker may be eligible to receive benefits if the worker...
- is unemployed through no fault of the worker;
So if you were fired, you can't collect benefits, because it's your fault (nebulous or not) that you don't have a job.
The "Fire Arlene Ackerman" Facebook page identifies three reasons people wanted to fire her:
- A $629 million deficit.
- Higher property taxes.
- Failing schools.
If Ms. Ackerman was brought in to fix those things and failed in any one of them, that would constitute valid grounds for the School Reform Commission to fire her. It should therefore constitute grounds for denying her unemployment benefits claim regardless of whether anyone contests it. The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry does not work in a vacuum, and can't ignore the widely reported fact of and reasons for Ackerman's firing, up to and including Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter's belief that, as a CBS Philly August headline stated (CBS's words), "It was time for Ackerman to go."
Separately, the money-grubbing for $573 a week in taxpayer-provided benefits by someone who has just received a buyout of over $900K is appalling, disgusting, and a whole lot of other adjectives I can't use (apparently, about $400K of the buyout was raised privately, which itself must be an amazing story -- Update: According to an Associated Press story tonight, the private donors "backed out after critics blasted the deal's lack of transparency").
Ms. Ackerman should be ashamed of herself for even thinking of it, let alone trying to get clearance from her former employer not to contest it. But I guess if a family with a paid-off $300,000 house, $80,000 in the bank, and nice cars can collect food stamp benefits in my home territory of Warren County, Ohio (yes, that did happen, and probably still happens throughout Ohio in similar circumstances without publicity), what's another $2,300 a month or so for 26 or 99 weeks in unemployment to someone who may very well be a millionaire?
Remember this episode the next time someone dares to tell you that the problem with government finance is that people aren't taxed enough. And yes, as offensive as a lot of golden parachutes in the private sector are, the story is and should be different when it involves public funds.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.