PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Most school districts have some new young teachers who are excellent — and some senior teachers who are, well, just counting down to retirement.
But when budget shortfalls force cut backs, often the younger teachers go first — like what Hempfield Area School District is doing, bringing protests from students at a recent school board meeting.
“To have a teacher, like, that cares so much, is something that you as a board should take pride in,” Hempfield student Taylor Hoffman told the board, “and to get rid of that is something that you as a board should look down on. You should be here for us, and not to save your teachers who don’t care about their jobs.”
Many say seniority should not trump performance.
“Now before you make your final cuts,” recent graduate Ryan Sokowski told the board, “I just ask that you guys base your decision not on seniority but on student impact.”
School boards claim their hands are tied — with seniority more important than job performance.
Now the state legislature has approved House Bill 805 or the “Protecting Excellent Teachers Act.”
Supporters of H.B. 805 say it gives school districts the ability to fire teachers who have been around a long time but are not doing a good job.
But opponents of the bill like the teachers union say the school districts already have that power. They’re just not using it.
“If a district has the fortitude they can get rid of an ineffective teacher,” says Matt Edgell of the PSEA. “They have the tools in their toolbox now.”
Edgell says H.B. 805 uses an untested evaluation based on student standardized testing scores.
“So it would increase the reliance on high stakes testing and decrease the reliance on experience when making furlough decisions,” says Edgell.
“It’s not about forcing tenured teachers out of the classroom,” notes Steve Robinson of the PA School Boards Association.
“It’s about giving school districts the flexibility to manage their personnel in a manner that is responsible and responsive to the needs of students.”
But the governor says he’s not persuaded and is expected to veto the bill.