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Stephen Bloom guest column

Stephen Bloom

Guest Editorial

State Rep. Stephen Bloom, R-North Middleton Township, has introduced legislation that would require districts to prioritize performance measures over experience when laying off teachers.

The bill is similar to one that Bloom co-sponsored during the last legislative session, but this time, House Republican leaders have provided “signals” that they plan to advance the legislation, Bloom said.

“This bill is going places,” he said.

Bloom introduced the bill March 17, the same day state Sen. Ryan Aument, R-Lancaster, introduced a companion bill in the Senate. It would alter current law that Bloom said requires layoffs to take place in inverse order of seniority, regardless of a teacher’s quality.

“We don’t want districts to be mandated to keep failing teachers in our classrooms,” he said. “It’s not good for our kids.”

A 2012 Pennsylvania law created a new educator evaluation system that ranks teachers on such factors as student standardized test performance and traditional classroom evaluations. Under the system, teachers receive a grade of distinguished, proficient, needs improvement, or failing.

Bloom’s bill would require districts to lay off teachers from worst to best performance levels, with seniority being used as only a tiebreaker, secondary consideration.

While Bloom calls seniority-based layoffs “unfair and arbitrary,” David Broderic, spokesman for the Pennsylvania State Education Association, said the traditional method makes sense.

Studies show that a teacher’s experience in the classroom is one of the primary measures of his or her effectiveness, Broderic said.

“This is a solution in search of a problem,” he said.

The real problem the state should be addressing is the need for teacher layoffs in the first place, he said. There have been 23,000 layoffs in Pennsylvania since state funding for education dropped in 2011, he said, and he called on the state to restore previous funding levels.

“Hopefully, we’ll soon be in the position where we’re not deciding who to fire, we’re deciding who to hire,” he said.

Bloom said his bill is a way to improve educational outcomes for children without spending more money, noting it would help ensure that they are being taught by teachers of the highest quality. The bill currently has 41 co-sponsors.

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