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Bill aiming to curtail teacher seniority clears hurdle in Pa. House

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Jun 5, 2014 03:56 PM

In a bipartisan 16-8 vote, the Pennsylvania House Education Committee has green-lighted a bill that would eliminate state-mandated seniority protections for teachers.

HB 1722, sponsored by State Rep. Tim Krieger, R-Westmoreland, would require districts to base layoffs on a teacher's performance as measured by the state's new teacher evaluation system.

Now, 499 of Pennsylvania's 500 school districts are required to base teacher layoff and recall decisions on the inverse order of seniority, sometimes referred to as "last in, first out."

The Philadelphia School Reform Commission suspended the state code that protects teachers based on longevity. The School District has called on the state Supreme Court to provide a ruling that would affirm that the SRC has the power to make this move.

The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers has petitioned the court to reject the District's position, arguing that work-rule changes should be negotiated at the bargaining table. The union's contract expired at the end of August; since then, negotiations have continued without any signs of progress.

HB 1722 also would allow districts to eliminate staff based on budgetary shortfalls. Aside from Philadelphia, state school districts now can order layoffs only when student enrollment declines or by eliminating specific programs.

Critics of the status quo say this leads many Pennsylvania districts to make wholesale cuts to programs such as art, music and kindergarten when revenues decline.

All Republicans on the education committee voted to advance the bill. Two Democrats --  James Clay, D-Philadelphia, and Jake Wheatley, D-Allegheny -- joined them.

Krieger, the bill's sponsor, said the measure will "protect good teachers and make schools better."

"If you're a young teacher and you're doing a great job, you shouldn't be furloughed because you haven't been there that long," he said.

Read the rest of this story at NewsWorks

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Comments (20)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 5, 2014 5:41 pm
Can someone please explain what could be taking the PA Supreme Court so long to decide on SRC request? It has been many weeks now. Also, if the Court eventually rules that SRC cannot over ride seniority, what does today's announcement from House Education committee mean?
Submitted by Taxpayer (not verified) on June 5, 2014 5:35 pm
Good. Seniority is a joke. It is blatant discrimination against young people.
Submitted by Maria (not verified) on June 8, 2014 9:06 pm
Taxpayer please go so where. All the new and so great teachers at my school left. They could not deal with school climate. The real reason why people want to get rid of seniority is money. I am real tired of this young teachers are better crap. I work hard to become better at my craft. Would you want a young surgeon operating on you? You want the best, the best is not young, the best is someone who works everyday at becoming better, forming relationships with parents and students and learning from others teachers and students. If you focus on best seniority would not be an issue right now, would it?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 10, 2014 10:00 am
Right, seniority is a variable in quality, but it is not the only variable. And it is possible to become senior and not good. People burn out. People sneak through a process for tenure that is not particularly rigorous. Denying that there is any way to measure quality other than seniority, denying that there are any "lemon" teachers out there is why the union has zero credibility.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 10, 2014 3:55 pm
so you agree that layoffs should be determined based on how good of a teacher you are? no one is proposing a "first in first out" rule where seniority counts against you. the idea is to get rid of "last in first out" rule that bases lay offs on how long you've been there instead of teacher quality.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 10, 2014 4:14 pm
Who determines teacher quality? Every teacher in my school has received the same rating.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 5, 2014 5:36 pm
And when you go to work in a school with the young people who you feel are good at the job, what do you do when they elect to leave after 3 years?..... the better question is what do you do for the kids when they are subject to waiting for the teacher to get experience and then actually start teaching? oh, that's right, it will all work out because of all the money that is saved on the firing of the experienced teacher and spent on dealing with the issued that arise form having nothing but new and transcient teachers around creating all of that nice consistant teaching. Linda K.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 5, 2014 6:02 pm
Hey young, cheap labor, you ain't gonna stay young forever.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 6, 2014 5:05 am
You're telling me...
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 5, 2014 7:39 pm
Corbett is gone and we all know that. Wolf will not sign a POS bill like this.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 6, 2014 8:23 am
What a waste of time. How does laying off anyone help schools. Amazing that we can find a way to get legislation to fire people but not support schools. This does nothing to help schools. There is no savings. We need certified teachers. People who don't care about the kids are gone rather quickly. This is just one more ploy to divide young and old teachers. The problem is young new teachers become older experienced teachers. People who don't want to teach are gone rather quickly. Philly has an average seniority of 6 years. That tells you something about the districts turn over on teachers. PA need to stop wasting time and look how they can actually fund education across PA in a stable manor. Stop robbing Peter to pay Paul.
Submitted by J.J. McHabe (not verified) on June 6, 2014 8:12 am
If your a good teacher, but expensive, you shouldn't be fired to keep some 24 year old kid who has a much lower salary, cheaper benefits, etc. Does anybody actually believe most people in jobs are fired for poor job performance? Really?
Submitted by Headstart Teacher (not verified) on June 6, 2014 9:32 am
will this be stopped before wolf can veto it?
Submitted by Anon (not verified) on June 6, 2014 10:16 am
Who will chose teaching as a career when it calls for a degree and passing certification tests? It will become a temporary job to take until one can find an opening in something else. Teachers make long term investments in continuing education, computer equipment, teaching aides, supplies. The teachers just coming in don't make enough to do this and never will if there is no job security. The real joke is that the entire state government is run via a seniority system. Will they let freshmen legislatures chair committees ?
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on June 6, 2014 11:10 am
I agree about the irony of the seniority system here. Also, they also have a nurse on duty in the state offices in case any legislators become ill. Not kidding!!!!!!!
Submitted by Taxpayer (not verified) on June 6, 2014 6:16 pm
What are you talking about? Senior "legislators" can be voted out any time. Being that education majors come from the bottom of the academic barrel, there will never be a shortage of them.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on June 8, 2014 4:54 pm
Taxpayer, Do you have a credible source, preferably a peer-reviewed study, to back up your assertion that "education majors come from the bottom of the academic barrel." Another point to consider is that one's academic achievement doesn't automatically correlate to good teaching. Good teaching requires the teacher to have good interpersonal skills in order to build rapport with students, families, and colleagues. Good teaching requires teachers to have organizational skills. Good teaching requires teachers to plan lessons that make sense to students and promote student learning. None of these requirements of teachers have much to do with academic achievement. Finally, to say that "there will never be a shortage of them" in reference to education majors reflects that you really don't care about the quality of teaching or about the quality of education that we provide to all children in our society. Maybe you're just a troll, but if you're not, your statement chips away more and more of your credibility.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 8, 2014 8:17 pm
Please don't feed the troll.
Submitted by Dave (not verified) on June 8, 2014 12:24 pm
And which academic barrel do you come from?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 8, 2014 11:17 pm
There might be a(nother) inner city teacher shortage as soon as the economy cycles in favor of private industry, but then again this time, the newly minted ivy league, TFA "teacherprenuers" will really cash in. When first hired in Philadelphia in 2005, I was given a $3000 signing bonus….half up front and half after 3 years... or something like that. It was a nice perk but had nothing to do with my interest or skill teaching inner city Middle School… must seem like such a cake walk, to those who have never done it. Not even ten years ago, the district was still always hundreds of teachers short on the first day of school. Then the recession hit and the Eli Broad trained privateers sprang into action. For dedicated Philadelphia teachers, which most are, the stress of all this political churn, starting with the reign of Queen Arlene, has been nothing short of inhumane. Vallas, Ackerman, Hite, Street, Nutter, Corbett, Obama and Duncan are incredible….as in NO credibility. GO PFT! We will prevail!

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