Teacher Layoffs Addressed in New Legislation

Teacher Layoffs Addressed in New Legislation

Back in 2012 the Pittsburgh School District when the issue of teacher furloughs came up the issue of conducting layoffs by means other than seniority was discussed (see this blog and its links).  The superintendent at the time had been directed by the school board to approach the teachers union with the proposal.  Two years ago the idea of applying measures related to performance and evaluations over seniority came up for discussion in the state House. and legislation that passed the General Assembly was vetoed by the Governor in May of 2016.

Earlier this week the House again passed legislation making changes to the state’s Public School Code that includes language regarding teacher layoffs. Presently, a decline in pupil enrollment, curtailment or alteration of educational programs, consolidation of schools, and new school districts created by reorganization are grounds for suspension of employees (under section 1124, causes for suspension, page 16, and also discussed in a Brief earlier this year).  The amended language would add “economic reasons that require a reduction in professional employees.”

The legislation would not permit employee compensation to be the determining factor, and a school board could layoff teachers only if they layoff the same percentage of administrative staff.  The exception to this rule would be if the district was granted a waiver by the Secretary of Education if all of the following were met: if the district’s administrative functions were already streamlined and reducing further would cause harm and the state Board of Education agrees with the Secretary’s determination.  Economic layoffs could occur only if a number of specific steps are carried out by a school board taking such an action, such as doing so at a public meeting, documenting the total cost savings from the layoffs, what other actions have been taken to save costs, and what district expenditures would look like with and without the suspensions.

The provisions for laying off teachers are contained in the section following the language on layoffs for economic reasons (beginning on page 20).  Teachers would be listed by their two most recent annual performance evaluations, with those with consecutive “unsatisfactory” evaluations being suspended first, then those with one “unsatisfactory” and one “satisfactory”, then those with two “proficient” or one “proficient” and one “distinguished” and then those with two “distinguished”.  If all teachers had the same ranking, the legislation allows for seniority within areas of certification to be the determining factor.  There would be an appeal process with the Secretary of Education and new collective bargaining agreements after the effective date of the legislation would have to incorporate the new language on suspensions into them.