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House of Representatives
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: February 2, 2015 02:30 PM
From: Representative Stephen Bloom
To: All House members
Subject: Protecting Excellent Teachers
In the near future, I plan to introduce legislation that will protect excellent teachers by ending the process of seniority-based layoffs. This process – sometimes referred to as “last in, first out” or “LIFO,” is not fair for teachers, nor beneficial for students.

Seniority-based layoffs are dismissals caused by a reduction in force and, by law, must be conducted in order of inverse seniority. The last teacher hired is the first person fired, regardless of his or her impact on students. Basing layoff policies on seniority is a disservice to both students and teachers. While seniority is often described as “fair,” it actually ignores differences in teacher quality and disrupts more classrooms and schools than performance-based layoffs. Moreover, seniority-based layoffs disproportionately impact low-income and minority students.

Schools serving primarily low-income and minority families often have higher concentrations of new teachers than more affluent schools. When seniority-based layoffs occur, these schools experience higher teacher turnover and lose many more faculty compared to other schools.

Research demonstrates that under a seniority-based layoff system, the more effective teacher is dismissed roughly four out of five times. We need only look to the Pittsburgh Public Schools, where in 2012, 16 “distinguished” teachers were furloughed because of this outdated state law. While seniority-based layoffs push effective teachers out of the classroom, 11 states – including Pennsylvania – still require seniority to be the sole factor that determines layoffs.

The adverse impacts of LIFO make eliminating this policy common sense. Basing dismissals instead on strong evaluations allows performance – not the number of years served – to determine which teachers should remain in the classroom. A 20-year veteran teacher should and must be kept in a school if he or she is effective, just as a fifth-year teacher should be retained if he or she is effective. How well a teacher is helping students learn must be the guiding principle in the unfortunate event of layoffs.

Please join me in protecting excellent teachers by cosponsoring this measure.

Introduced as HB805