Bill would let school districts fire teachers based on performance

HARRISBURG, Pa. - A controversial bill would give school districts in Pennsylvania more latitude when terminating teachers.

House Bill 1722, a predominantly Republican-backed bill, is pure politics and does nothing to address the state's funding crisis, local teachers unions said.

The way teacher terminations in Pennsylvania work now is last one in, last one out, but the bill would change that, giving school districts more latitude when firing teachers.

"The bill does this, that the teachers with the lowest evaluations will determine who gets off first. Under the current system, it's the last in, last out," said Pennsylvania Representative Paul Clymer.

Clymer said he supports the bill and thinks it will strengthen the state education system.

The bill proposes the first ones out the door would be those with failing evaluations, followed by needs improvement, proficient and then finally a rating of distinguished last.

Seniority would only come into play if teachers considered for termination all had the same rating, but local teachers unions said the state evaluations are already weeding out bad teachers.

"Tenure can be revoked if you have an unsatisfactory evaluation. At the end of one year, you are given an action plan to remedy whatever it is you are not proficient in, and at the end of that year, if you are unsatisfactory again, you are dismissed," said Susan Arnold, president, East Pen Education Association, adding that the issue has become highly political.

Representative Mike Schlossberg opposes the bill, saying he finds it troubling that, in the last four years, Pennsylvania has lost more than 20,000 teachers.

Most recently, 73 teachers were fired in Allentown.

"The conversation needs to be how can we get teachers back in our classrooms, not how can we make it easier to fire them," said Schlossberg.

Schlossberg said the state needs to find revenue to pay to bring those teachers back. He suggests a tax on the Marcellus Shale.

Meantime, Clymer said House Bill 1722 is still being crafted and could change before it's voted on later this year.

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