District: Seniority No Longer Decides Teacher Staffing

Decision to impose new work rules triggers a legal showdown.

The Philadelphia School District said Monday it will minimize the use of seniority in making teacher assignments — a move that will likely trigger a legal showdown with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. 

“While the process will continue to include seniority as a factor for some staffing decisions, it will end the practice of using seniority as the only factor in any decisions,” the district said in a press release. That decision is “consistent” with a deal finalized last week with the district’s principals — negotiations with the PFT had been at a stalemate.

“The school district and the SRC have chosen to forsake negotiating in good faith in favor of a legal end-around to avoid meaningful contract talks with the PFT,” PFT President Jerry Jordan responded. “The members of the PFT are partners in public education, not indentured servants. Today’s action by the school district belittles every PFT member, and signals an unwillingness to reach a fair contract with the city’s educators.

KYW elaborates:

Hite says under his plan, a committee of a school’sprincipal, teachers and a parent will determine teacher staffing at each school.

“We think this change is essential to enable different schools and unique school communities to match teacher skills with specific needs of students in their school.”

The district has filed a motion with the State Supreme Court, asking the high court to affirm the district’s authority under the state takeover law to impose the new work rules.

In February, Philly Mag’s Patrick Kerkstra recommended the district impose new work rules on teachers, in which seniority would be weakened if not discarded entirely. Last week, Gene Marks recommended giving principals more say over staffing decisions.