Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a bill to end seniority-based layoffs in the state’s public schools on Tuesday, though Republican legislators had urged him to reconsider.
GOP legislative leaders signaled their intent to tie House Bill 805 to the budget, with negotiations set to pick up pace now that the House and Senate are back in session.
“I don’t advocate for the status quo, but I can tell you this: If he does veto the bill – and we’re going to have a budget done very soon I hope – and the Governor is going to want more dollars for education, well guess what we’re going to want. We’re going to want this piece of legislation to go along with any new dollars in education,” Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman told reporters Tuesday.
GOP leaders intend to use the teacher furlough bill to emphasize improvements in the quality of public schooling in Pennsylvania, not just increases in funding.
“[Funding is] part of the discussion, but the discussion cannot just be about the quantity of the dollars provided,” House Majority Leader Dave Reed said. “We’ve also got to focus on the quality of the product produced with those dollars, and this bill moves us forward in that direction.”
The veto could be damaging to an already fragile working relationship between the Governor and the state legislature, but Wolf believes schools should use a different evaluation system.
“I am committed to greater accountability in our schools, but we should be working together to create a wide-ranging system that focuses on real, proven strategies to prepare our students and measure teacher effectiveness,” Wolf wrote to the House of Representatives. “
House Bill 805 calls for teacher layoffs to be based on performance measures, but the administration has said the state should not be focusing on “how to conduct mass layoffs.”
Under the bill, schools facing layoffs could fire teachers with failing grades first, regardless of seniority. Teachers who “need improvement” would be next to go, although seniority would still be used as a tiebreaker between employees with the same performance ratings.
“We shouldn’t be preserving the job of a low-performing teacher and furloughing a high-performing teacher merely because one has more seniority over the other,” Reed said. “It’s a pretty basic concept that I’m pretty sure almost every single parent across this state would agree with.”