Philly school leaders and state lawmakers set sights on teacher seniority

Oct 1, 2013 by

PHILADELPHIA – A coalition of parents and education reformers are expected to – in the words of a teacher union representative – drop “a legal atomic bomb” on Monday by publicly calling for Philadelphia school leaders to scrap seniority protections for teachers.

SS teacher reports that parents and reformers want to end seniority-based teacher layoffs and recalls so Philadelphia schools Superintendent William Hite Jr. will have “a free hand in assigning staff” beginning Oct. 1, the day “the district begins to reassign teachers … to address overcrowded classes.”

Chronic budget woes forced Philly school leaders to lay off some 3,800 teachers and staff members over the summer.

Reformers also hope that a policy that allows teachers to be recalled based on their classroom performance – instead of their years of service – might help convince state lawmakers that the cash-strapped Philly schools are being substantially reformed and are therefore deserving of $45 million more in state aid.

The groups’ Monday announcement will likely “rekindle fierce debate over powers granted to the School Reform Commission (the state-appointed school board) under the law that led to the state takeover of city schools in 2001,” reports

Teacher seniority is also facing a threat from a bipartisan group of state lawmakers. reports, “On Tuesday, a bill is to be introduced in Harrisburg that would strip language from the state school code that requires layoffs and recalls to be determined by seniority.”

Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan said he was stunned at the challenges to the long-held union principle, and defended it as “the fairest way” to make staffing decisions.

Parent Luciana Boone pushed back against that union argument.

“I believe the principals or the superintendent should be able to make the decisions about what is in the best interest of the schools, the students and the neighborhood,” Boone told the news site.

“There may be some teachers who have 15 to 20 years of experience teaching, but there may be someone with five years who is more adept with students and technology,” she added.

Philly school leaders and state lawmakers set sights on teacher seniority – powered by Education Action Group Foundation, Inc..

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