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HB 805: Lawmakers should focus on adequately funding our schools, not making it easier to cut teachers from our children’s classrooms

Susan Spicka, Director of Education Voters of PA made the following statement about HB 805:

Supporters of HB 805 call this bill the “Protect Excellent Teachers Act,” but, in fact, this bill does not protect our teachers. Instead, this bill creates a mechanism that will make it easier for districts to cut even more teachers from our children’s classrooms while allowing lawmakers who have refused to adequately fund education for years to make the baseless claim that they somehow support our children’s schools.

Under current law, teachers may only be furloughed if schools consolidate, if student enrollment declines, or if a program is curtailed. HB 805 would change PA law and allow school districts to furlough more teachers by using “economic reasons” as an additional reason for cutting positions. But what are these “economic reasons”? The bill does not define the term, leaving the definition to 500 school boards throughout the state with no consistent statewide policy.

Proponents of HB 805 often imply that teachers with seniority cannot be furloughed and that HB 805 is an “accountability” measure that will address this issue and allow school districts to furlough teachers with seniority. Under current law, however, regardless of seniority, school district administrators already have the authority to remove failing teachers from schools by documenting teachers’ shortcomings and demonstrating cause for dismissal. HB 805 isn’t really about seniority. HB 805 is really about making it easier for school districts to furlough  teachers. 

 In a May 12 Keystone Crossroads article Kevin McCorry raises another deeply troubling issue with HB 805 and other “accountability” measures that we can expect to see coming from state lawmakers during this budget season.

McCorry writes:

In the larger political dynamic, additional education funding often flows from Harrisburg with strings attached. And, even if Wolf moves forward with the veto, GOP leaders say this bill is the sort of accountability measure the governor will have to swallow to get a funding boost in this year’s budget.

‘If we’re going to put more money into school districts, we want to make sure that it’s used to the best interests of the students,’ said Corman.

We strongly urge state lawmakers to stop using school funding as a bargaining chip to extract concessions in budget negotiations. The funding our children’s schools receive should not be based on political battles waged by lawmakers in Harrisburg.

We also urge lawmakers to stop spending time and energy on efforts that will make it easier for school districts to cut teachers and instead focus on what parents throughout the Commonwealth want for their children: adequate state funding so that all of our children will receive the educational opportunities they will need to be successful in school today and in their lives after they graduate.