Key Issue: Seniority

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Key Issue: Seniority

Why is seniority important?

As educators, PSEA members know that experience in the classroom matters.

For that reason, seniority is the only truly objective measure on which furlough decisions should be based.

What's the latest?

In October 2017, legislators passed a School Code bill that includes changes to educators’ seniority rights and furlough rules. On Nov. 6, Gov. Tom Wolf allowed the bill to become law without his signature. It is Act 55 of 2017.

PSEA opposed these changes from the beginning. But, thanks to PSEA members’ advocacy, Gov. Wolf, and our legislative allies, the plan ensures that seniority is the determining factor in furlough decisions for the vast majority of educators.

In June 2018, legislators passed a School Code bill amending Act 55 to ensure that experienced educators with multiple certifications are not furloughed simply because they teach in a program area a district intends to cut. This change addressed one of the major flaws in Pennsylvania’s new furlough law.

What does Act 55 do?

This law includes four categories of educators, based on their most recent two, consecutive years of evaluation results. The idea behind this is, if economic furloughs are necessary in a school district, the lowest-rated educators would be furloughed first and the highest-rated educators would be furloughed last, with seniority being used as a deciding factor within each category.

Temporary professional employees would continue to be furloughed first. Educators in category 1 could be furloughed next. Furloughs could then proceed in order through categories 2, 3, and 4.

  • Category 1: an educator’s two most recent annual performance ratings were “unsatisfactory.”
       
  • Category 2: an educator’s two most recent annual performance ratings were one “unsatisfactory” and one “satisfactory.”
       
  • Category 3: an educator’s two most recent annual performance ratings were either consecutive ratings of "proficient" or a combination of one rating of "proficient" or "distinguished" and one rating of "needs improvement."
       
  • Category 4: an educator’s two most recent annual performance ratings were consecutive ratings of "distinguished" or a combination of one rating of "proficient" and one rating of "distinguished."

Is Act 55 better than other proposals we’ve seen?

Because of PSEA members’ advocacy and Gov. Tom Wolf’s veto of HB 805 last year, Act 55 is far less damaging than previous versions — including a bill introduced by Sen. John Eichelberger that would have allowed furloughs of any educator for any reason.

Under this law, seniority will remain a determining factor in furlough decisions for the vast majority of educators. In addition, the law includes provisions requiring:

  • advanced notice from school boards of economic furloughs,
  • the furloughing of an equal percentage of administrators and educators, and
  • “anti-targeting” language that would punish administrators for making furlough decisions based on an educator’s salary.

Despite these improvements, PSEA still opposed this law and will oppose any bill that uses factors other than seniority to determine furlough order.