Let’s Make Protecting Excellent Teachers a Priority
By State Representatives Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster County), Seth Grove (R-York County) and Tim Krieger (R-Westmoreland County)

This is the time of year when we reflect and give thanks to those who have inspired and encouraged us over the years and helped us develop into the people we are today.

For many of us, a great teacher will come to mind.

Unfortunately, as school districts face rising costs and declining tax revenues, they will be forced to make tough budgetary choices. In some cases, the only solution will be to layoff teachers.

We know excellent teachers are the cornerstone of an excellent education system, yet we continue to require districts to rely solely on seniority to determine layoff decisions. This means we often lose some of our most effective teachers, simply because they have less classroom experience than other teachers in the district.

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.

To this end, we each have introduced legislation to address the issue of seniority-based layoffs. We are united in our commitment to reward excellent teachers and end this outdated policy.

And we aren’t the only ones. Last year, Pittsburgh Superintendent Linda Lane teamed up with neighborhood and civil rights organizations to reform the system and exempt its best teachers from layoffs. Sadly, this effort was unsuccessful and 16 of the district’s “distinguished” teachers were furloughed.

In Philadelphia, Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. and the School Reform Commission have shown tremendous leadership by using their special powers to suspend seniority in the rehiring of laid-off personnel, but they have yet to reach agreement with the teachers union on key issues related to seniority.

School boards from across the Commonwealth — rural and urban, large and small, low-income and affluent — have come forward asking us to reform this practice.

There is also a diverse coalition of organizations, ranging from business to civil rights groups, professional associations to teacher prep providers, supporting this important effort. They expressed their support earlier this month when the House Education Committee held a hearing to solicit public comment on our legislation.

It is clear that there is a strong appetite amongst voters and our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass legislation addressing seniority.

Pennsylvania is one of 11 remaining states that mandate districts determine layoff decisions solely based on seniority. Let’s end this practice in 2014 and make sure all of our students have the chance to look back on their education and remember the many special teachers who changed their lives. Let’s make an effort to protect our excellent teachers and keep them where they belong: in the classroom.

Published in the Lancaster Sunday News, January 2014. 

Representative Ryan Aument
41st Legislative District
Representative Seth Grove
196th Legislative District
Representative Tim Krieger
57th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Abbey Fosnot