This week, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed legislation that would end the practice of basing teacher furloughs on seniority alone. Pennsylvania is one of only 6 states that bases such decisions on seniority alone, and the new law would allow schools to retain less senior teachers who have been rated satisfactory and instead furlough teachers who have been given poorer ratings. Seniority would still be used to break a tie in the event two teachers have been rated similarly in their performance.
Supporters of the new law, known as HB805, note examples in which Districts were forced to furlough distinguished teachers while keeping others that had been rated poorly, simply because they were not permitted to look at other factors than seniority. The new law recognizes that teachers, as professionals, are not all the same and that the student achievement and welfare should be of greater concern than seniority alone.
Governor Wolf, however, has threatened to veto the bill, which currently sits on his desk. Oddly, Governor Wolf claims this is a “local matter to be decided by districts,” yet he continued to threaten a veto of the bill that actually would give local districts the tools to make such a decision.
In addition, the new law would allow districts the ability to make furlough decisions on the basis of economic considerations, whereas now such decisions only can be made on the basis of specific reasons such as declining enrollment, program curtailment, and building or district consolidation.
Stay tuned to see whether the Governor actually provides local districts with these needed tools or follows through on his threat to veto.
EDIT: Governor Wolf in fact did veto the bill Wednesday, May 19, 2016, as threatened.