How Does Seniority Mandate Help Kids, Exactly?

Here’s a letter to the editor I sent to the Erie Times on furloughing teachers:

National Education Association board member Sam Talarico unsurprisingly takes strong exception to the idea of furloughing teachers on the basis of performance, rather than the current Pennsylvania practice of doing so on seniority alone. He argues that the Commonwealth Foundation and Pennsylvania School Boards Association make the case for eliminating the seniority protection “only from an economic angle,” and that firing veteran teachers would cause educational quality to suffer.

Mr. Talarico is so absorbed in deriding the Commonwealth Foundation’s motives, he neglects to examine why getting rid of “last in, first out” (LIFO) would be good for students. Ending LIFO is not just a policy that would make economic sense for school districts facing a drop in funding (though that is a game-changing reality that cannot be ignored). The simple truth is that “seniority” and “experience” are not synonymous with “effective” when it comes to teaching.

Switching to a system that accounts for each teacher’s classroom performance, expertise and ability to connect with students helps protect the state’s very best teachers, whether old or new. Far from being a nefarious plot to create a “low-wage economy,” ending furloughs based on seniority alone keeps the focus on kids so they are prepared for well-paying jobs in our rapidly changing economy.