State lawmakers are considering changing the constraints on when and how school districts can furlough teachers.
School districts now can only temporarily lay off employees under one of four scenarios, none of which is economic.
Legislation debated by the state House Education Committee would allow furloughs stemming from financial straits, but the bill considered would also decouple such decisions from teachers’ seniority.
Republican state Rep. Tim Krieger of Westmoreland County says making furlough decisions based on seniority doesn’t necessarily leave the best educators in the classroom.
"What is fair about a teacher that has excelled, that is doing very well, but because of economic circumstances has to be furloughed when others aren’t doing as well, aren’t producing results, and are allowed to remain?" he said.
The Corbett administration supports the measure, and says providing another rationale for furloughs and getting rid of seniority considerations in deciding who gets sent home will give cash-strapped school districts another tool to deal with tight budgets while putting students first.
But the state’s largest teacher’s union president says it could lead to schools paring their staffs of the most senior teachers.
Other lawmakers expressed concern the change would make furloughs inevitable in the current economic climate.