Teachers are not entitled to collect unemployment benefits during school breaks or summer vacation if they have a “reasonable assurance of continued employment” in the next academic year. Recently, a Pennsylvania Head Start program successfully objected to the unemployment claims of several of its employees.
The employees taught low-income, prekindergarten children basic reading and counting skills. The program was held in local public school facilities and was funded through grants and federal funds. The school district did not provide financial support or direction for the program.
The employees argued that the Unemployment Act’s ban on teachers’ receiving benefits applies to teachers employed by “educational institutions.” They claimed that Head Start programs are not “educational institutions.”
The court disagreed. Noting that all the teachers and administrators of the program referred to the claimant employees as “teachers,” the court found that the program ran an educational curriculum and met both state and federal regulatory definitions of educational institutions.
Teachers in public and private schools as well as those in nontraditional school settings should not expect to be eligible for unemployment benefits during school or program breaks. Any teacher who is concerned about continued employment after a break should ask the school or program for written assurances of continued employment. If the request is refused or ignored, the teacher may be able to collect
unemployment benefits during the break.