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State lawmakers want to end seniority-based teacher layoffs

Sen. Ryan P. Aument, left, and Rep. Stephen Bloom - (Photo / Submitted)

Two Central Pennsylvania legislators have introduced measures that would require school districts to use teacher performance as a guide for furlough and reinstatement decisions, rather than basing it solely on seniority.

Seniority-based layoffs are currently conducted using inverse order, where “the last teacher hired is the first person fired, regardless of his or her impact on students,” said the bills’ prime sponsors, Sen. Ryan P. Aument (R-Lancaster) and Rep. Stephen Bloom (R-Cumberland) in a news release Tuesday.  

Under Senate Bill 5 and House Bill 805, school districts would instead be guided by performance ratings based on the educator evaluation system through which teachers receive a rating of “distinguished,” “proficient,” “needs improvement” or “failing.” 

Aument and Bloom pointed to a 2012 example in the Pittsburgh Public Schools, where 16 teachers rated as “distinguished” under the evaluation system were furloughed. Additionally, they cited a 2014 California Superior Court case in which a judge ruled that the state’s teacher tenure laws, which included the “last-in, first-out” method, were unconstitutional. Pennsylvania is one of only six remaining states that require seniority to be the sole factor in determining furloughs, the legislators said. 

The legislation would “keep Pennsylvania’s best teachers in the classroom and boost student achievement by ending the practice of seniority-based layoffs,” they noted. 

“Every Pennsylvania student deserves to share the classroom with an excellent teacher, and it is our responsibility to support policies that not only identify, reward and protect our best teachers, but also give school districts the flexibility to right the financial ship without negatively impacting the quality of their schools,” Aument said.

Bloom said, “Research demonstrates that under a seniority-based layoff system, the more effective teacher is dismissed roughly four out of five times. The adverse impacts of this ‘last in, first out’ process on teachers and students make eliminating this outdated state law a common sense reform.” 

Senate Bill 5 and House Bill 805 have more than 40 bipartisan co-sponsors and have been referred to their respective education committees, the legislators said. 

Larry Portzline
Larry Portzline covers York County, nonprofits, workforce and education. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at larryp@cpbj.com.

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