‘Reform’ superintendent wants to abolish teacher seniority

What with Hite being a product of the Broad Foundation (which is where wealthy “reformers” train superintendents on how to strategically dismantle the school districts they’re groomed to take over), this does not surprise me. But it still infuriates me, and if I still had small children, I’d yank them out and home-school them rather than feed my kids to the for-profit school machine:

William R. Hite Jr. knows it’s a tough ask: $120 million from a state that historically views Philadelphia and its public schools “as a cesspool.”

So, the superintendent figures, the only way the nearly-broke Philadelphia School District is getting the cash it needs from state coffers is to end teacher seniority.

“If we stand any chance to get money from Harrisburg, it’s going to have to support something that is different from what we have now,” Hite told the Inquirer Editorial Board on Thursday, adding that legislators are unlikely to support a system where “individuals get another increase just because they’re remaining on the job another year.”

On the table is a budget so bleak that schools would not have counselors, books, or extracurriculars next year. To add even some of those basics back, Hite and the School Reform Commission have requested $304 million – the $120 million from Harrisburg plus $60 million from the city, with the rest in labor concessions.

Mayor Nutter this week proposed giving the district $95 million by taxing cigarettes at $2 per pack and raising the liquor-by-the-drink tax to 15 percent.

But that still leaves a big hole for Harrisburg to fill. And, Hite said, outside the city, “Philadelphia is thought of as a cesspool.”

People believe that the district operates inefficiently, wastes money, and “protects individuals that are not serving children,” Hite said.

Among legislators, “there’s no desire to support the status quo,” the superintendent said.

Status quo? The status quo is that almost half of Philadelphia public school students live in deep poverty — but we’re not supposed to talk about that anymore. We’re supposed to implement more standardized testing, and grade teachers on the results. Kind of like grading ER doctors on whether gunshot victims survive.

Hite has made no secret of his desire to end seniority in a new Philadelphia Federation of Teachers contract – saying the district ought to be valuing “the performance of individuals as it relates to outcomes for students vs. how long they’ve been in the position.” He also takes issue with the last in, first out provision that governs layoffs.

If successful, getting rid of seniority will accomplish exactly what Hite wants it to do. It will drive the most educated and experienced teachers into the suburban districts, or out of teaching entirely, so the schools can be left to the profit margins of Big Reform. God help us.

4 thoughts on “‘Reform’ superintendent wants to abolish teacher seniority

  1. The subject of public education is one that is close to my heart. The first thing to understand that American education is actually quite good and very competitive with the rest of the world, although the press is so inept that it makes it look like the US lags far behind when they report on education. The second is that, for some reason, Americans think that sports figures should be paid tens of millions of dollars a year if they are good at throwing or catching or hitting a ball, but that school teachers who spend all day with a roomful of children and are charge with educating those children for a successful future are considered unworthy of the pittance they receive. Given the relative importance of those two jobs, playing a game and educating children, I propose that sports salaries be taxed at ninety-five percent in order to fund education. That goes for sports salaries for players, owners, and coaches both in professional and amateur sports. That way, a football coach at a university making a million dollars a year would have $50k left after taxes, a disposable income commensurate with the important work of distracting young people from getting a college education, while a school teacher at an Oakland elementary school might possibly make more than $65k a year pre-tax after 25 years in the field, the last ten spent working for the exact same salary because they haven’t had a contract in ten years. It means an overrated player like Joe Mauer, a baseball player for the inept Minnesota Twins who makes 23 million a year for a really bad ball club, would have over a hundred thousand left after taxes while a college-educated educator who had dedicated his or her life to preparing everyone else’s children for college might have more than 30k left after taxes after ten years of working for the improvement of society as a whole.

    Just a thought. I know sports is sacred and education is just something for Republicans to bitch about because teachers vote Democratic. It is also something for the Democrats to demagogue because they have no respect for the people who have supported them for decades and have become as corrupt as the Republicans.

  2. American education sucks. There are lots of great instructors, but their ability to perform is limited by the educational structure. Ergo, millions of students are so under-educated when they leave school that they join the Republican Party. Or become Libertarians. The tenure thing and all the rest of what the Republicans say is wrong with the NEA and the system in general is this; they want to do away with pensions. Not only for teachers but for all lacal, state, and federal employees. They call pensions “unfunded liabilities.” What they mean by that is that some future taxpayer will have to pay for the pensions that will be taken by some future retiree. The English language doesn’t contain enough ‘bad’ words to describe ALL Republicans.

  3. The statement that American education sucks is unsupported. International testing of students puts the US within fractions of a point of the top performers. In a recent test, the US finished 11th, which was decried by the press as a sign of how poor education in the US is, but when you examined the numbers you found that the US finished a fraction of a point behind the leader. The notion that people become Republicans because US education is poor is so stupid it doesn’t merit any more discussion except to point out how stupid it is.

  4. One thing is as sure as sunrise. The instant they get seniority repealed, they will pull the rug out from under testing. The last thing they want examined is the efficacy of minimum wage teaching.

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