In response to Dr. Hite’s Proposal

On Thursday, August 15th, the School District of Philadelphia is having a hastily announced meeting in an attempt to suspend a part of the PA school code. Their goal is to eliminate seniority for teachers — which includes freezing all pay increases for teachers, and bypassing seniority when hiring back laid off staff.

Dr. Hite claims that these steps are necessary, but to put it simply, they are not. Not only are the tactics of the school district underhanded and misdirecting, the core premise of their claim–that teacher seniority hurts schools and students–is patently false.

The seniority system–used in some shape or form by the vast majority of school districts in the country–attracts and retains talented teachers as well as gives schools continuity and stability. SDP especially needs to preserve its pay scale, as Philadelphia school teachers already make 19% less than their immediate suburban counterparts. Losing good talent to districts that pay more is already a problem, and eliminating the pay scale will continue that trend.

For the school district to stage an attack on this system in the midst of a “crisis” does nothing to advance teaching and learning. It is simply an attempt to advance the political and private interests that would benefit from a weakening of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, and uses the crisis as an excuse to do so.

The timing makes it look like that teachers are the “hold-outs” in this situation, but only if you believe that school staff are in any way responsible for either causing or resolving this funding “crisis.” They are not. Moreover, the immediate funds that might be gained from gutting teacher salary and benefits are small change in comparison to the lasting damage that it would cause in our schools.

Philadelphia can’t afford to have a second-class teaching force. See this move for what it is, and let the School Reform Commission know that you are not buying what they are selling.