Growing Chorus for Seniority Reform

Member Group : Commonwealth Foundation

May 12, 2016, HARRISBURG, Pa.—Thousands of Pennsylvania teachers put in extra hours, study the latest education research, and work tirelessly to change the lives of students across the state. These teachers go above and beyond mere job descriptions because they see teaching not simply as a profession but as a calling.

If Governor Wolf carries through on his threat to veto a bill protecting these teachers, their jobs could be at risk. After the Senate on Monday passed seniority reform bill HB 805, Wolf promptly vowed to veto the legislation, which would ensure that during furloughs, teachers are retained based on their effectiveness, not merely on their seniority.

"Teachers are some of the most patient and selfless people among us, and they choose to teach because they want to change lives and impact the future," commented Brittney Parker, leader of Commonwealth Foundation’s Free to Teach initiative, which advocates for teachers statewide. "It’s unjust and unfair for teachers to be devalued just because they have spent less time in the classroom. Teachers should be rewarded for striving for excellence, not told their performance doesn’t matter."

Newspaper editorial boards are lining up on teachers’ side, calling on Wolf to sign seniority reform:

"The only priority – only priority – should be making sure the best-qualified and most talented teachers, regardless of how many years they have under their belts, stay in the classroom."
—Harrisburg Patriot-News

"We would encourage the governor to sign this bill, which represents common-sense reform."
—Sunbury Daily Item

"This emphasis on the quality of a teacher’s work is how it should be done if we truly care about young people and their education."
—Bloomsburg Press-Enterprise

"When the going gets rough, it’s clear to us that keeping the best and brightest teachers in the classrooms, no matter how many years they’ve been punching the clock, is the best way to achieve this."
—Washington Observer-Reporter

"It would make about as much sense to average out the students’ performance as it does to average their teachers’ performance the way we currently do."
—Butler Eagle

"It’s wrong to punish high-performing teachers because they may lack seniority," Parker continued. "And it’s wrong to deny students the best teachers possible in favor of those who have been there the longest. Common sense says we should work to keep the most effective teachers in the classroom. The vast majority of other states ended seniority-based teacher layoffs long ago.

"Our students are at the heart of this matter. For their sakes, it’s time Pennsylvania catches up in the movement to protect excellent teachers."
Brittney Parker and other Commonwealth Foundation experts are available for comment. Please contact Gina Diorio at 862-703-6670 or [email protected] to schedule an interview.

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