Unions attack governor’s plan to lessen the importance of teacher seniority

Mar 5, 2013 by

CHARLESTON, W. Va. – Public school teachers, like employees in any profession, want job security.

But public school students need the best possible teachers.

Since schools exist to benefit students, their needs must necessarily trump employee wish lists.seniority

But not everyone in West Virginia agrees with that assessment. The state’s teachers unions are leading an effort to defeat a new bill proposed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin that would lessen the importance of teacher seniority in school personnel decisions, according to the Associated Press.


Tomblin wants seniority to be only one of eight factors schools officials should consider when filling new teaching jobs or making promotion, transfer or layoff decisions. Among the other criteria that would be considered are specialized training, relevant experience to the particular job and academic credentials.

The governor would allow county school boards to determine which criteria should be given the most weight in personnel decisions. He also wants school administrators to have the power to repost job openings to attract additional candidates if they are not happy with their choices.

School superintendents across the state reportedly like the proposal, which is just one part of Tomblin’s education overhaul plan being considered by the legislature.

“Ultimately, when you are trying to find the best candidate, many times the most senior person is absolutely the best person for the job,” Pat Law, superintendent of Wood County schools, told the AP. “However, there are times when seniority and having the credential doesn’t create the best choice for instruction in that classroom.”

“Seniority probably has its place, but it shouldn’t be the deciding factor,” said Berkeley County school superintendent Manny Arvon. “The job should always go to the best teacher.”

The unions don’t agree at all. That’s not surprising, since union leaders are always sensitive to the desires of their most senior members, and senior members want their seniority to carry a great deal of weight.


“It takes us back to the day when hiring was very subjective, when you could hire your nephew right out of school,” said Judy Hale, president of the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia.

Or maybe it will take the state forward to the day when administrators will actually have the power to choose the most appropriate teacher for a classroom. If that’s the administrator’s nephew, so be it.

That’s far better than automatically giving a job to a candidate that might be a bad fit, just because that person has been working in the district longer than the other candidates.

The union argument is based on the assumption that teachers earn special rights, and those rights are more important than student learning.

That’s a flawed assumption that has hurt schools and students throughout the nation over the years. It’s good to see governors and other lawmakers addressing this important issue.

via Unions attack governor’s plan to lessen the importance of teacher seniority – EAGnews.org :: Education Research, Reporting, Analysis and Commentary.

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