By Steve Gunn
PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh school board may be forced to lay off as many as 400 full-time employees next year, including many teachers, to help eliminate a huge budget deficit.
With that in mind, the board wants to make sure that the remaining teachers, who will be overseeing larger classes, are the best that the district has to offer.
On Wednesday the board approved a resolution directing the superintendent to talk to union leaders about doing away with the traditional “last in, first out” system for layoffs. They would like to create a new system where a teacher’s classroom effectiveness is considered at layoff time, regardless of their level of seniority, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
District officials are particularly concerned about schools like Pittsburgh Faison PreK-5, which was reopened as a new school this year with a handpicked staff. That means the district carefully chose outstanding teachers to work at the turnaround school and deliver positive results in the classroom.
But 40 percent of the teachers in the school have less than four years of experience. That means many of them would be washed away in a mass seniority-based layoff.
Superintendent Linda Lane is expected to report back to the board in June about the union’s response to the resolution. But board members probably shouldn’t get their hopes up.
Every public school in Pennsylvania with a unionized teaching staff uses seniority as the sole criteria for layoffs, according to the news story. No union in the state has agreed to deviate from that policy.
Gov. Tom Corbett introduced legislation last year that would have permitted factors other than seniority to be used by schools during layoffs, but it died due to a lack of support.
Meanwhile, the president of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers said she was “very disappointed” by Wednesday’s school board resolution.
“No one union or no teachers have worked harder to work in collaboration with the district to move our students forward,” union President Nina Esposito-Visgitis was quoted as saying. “So it was very disappointing to me that the board of education would choose to make such a public display this morning.”
Esposito-Visgitis went to say that seniority “is the only fair way” to determine who loses their job.
So it looks like job security for tenured teachers will once again trump quality education for K-12 students. Shame on the unions. How dare they claim to be concerned about children.