State Mulls Abandoning Seniority In Teacher Furloughs

HARRISBURG PA – Economic reality for Pennsylvania school districts may slaughter the sacred cow of teacher seniority.

State Mulls Abandoning Seniority In Teacher Furloughs

Rather than lose young, qualified educators simply because they were the last ones in the door, The Pennsylvania Independent online news service reports three state representatives have authored legislation to give school districts flexibility in laying off personnel due to budget constraints. The proposal is being examined by the House Education Committee.

The proposed elimination of seniority as the sole basis for the decision to suspend employees has met opposition from the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), the state’s largest teachers’ union. However, the necessity to make teacher furloughs based on fiscal reality has caused lawmakers and school board officials to consider teacher effectiveness to be a fairer standard than seniority alone, The Independent said.

The Pottsgrove Education Association, which represents teachers and other Pottsgrove School District employees in collective bargaining, is a PSEA affiliate.

Gov. Tom Corbett also supports the move away from seniority, according to Carolyn Dumaresq, the state secretary of education. “We need to ensure that we have a strong teaching staff; teachers whose performance reflects a focus on student achievement,” Dumaresq said Tuesday (Dec. 3, 2013)in testimony at a hearing before the committee.

The administration and other advocates for the change see the furlough issue connected to the statewide teacher evaluation system that was created in 2011. Now that teachers can be graded on their performance, school administrators can make personnel decisions more closely aligned with student need.

The PSEA claims districts will target veteran teachers for furloughs because those educators command higher pay and more expensive benefits. “I think districts are going to lay off the most senior teachers because it saves the most money,” PSEA President Michael Crossey told the committee

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