Teacher Seniority and The Budget Crisis

Philadelphia has a crisis.  It can’t fund it schools. Both State and City officials cannot agree on how to bridge the gap between how much money is available and how much money is said to be needed.  One answer offered by a “concerned citizens group” is to eliminate teacher seniority rules.  Hmmm.

Of course these are two unrelated issues.  It may be arguable that strict seniority is a practice that has outlived its usefulness.  It is simply part of another conversation.

Teacher seniority is center to any discussion about improving educational outputs and building a staff of good to great teachers.  That conversation also has many other associated dialogues.

What about the quality of supervision (like evaluating teachers to determine who is not meeting standards), or the continuing education training that could keep older teachers current?  Don’t overlook the possibility school districts might adopt industry practice of removing older and higher paid teachers in favor of the younger and less well paid.  Human nature is human nature.

So whether the core belief of almost all unions that seniority rules is the best approach or not has nothing to do with whether funding for the 2013/14 school year is sufficient.  The same can be said for the current crisis around the budget and most likely the debt limit increase.  It makes no sense to connect unrelated issues if anyone is serious about solving either problem.

Philadelphia Schools, like the overall US K-12 education system is among the most costly in the world.  There are simply more fundamental problems that will remain even if a fix for Philadelphia School Districts short fall is found.

Tying the Affordable Care Act to the overall US budget is just as misguided… unless the argument was to move the US to a Universal healthcare model.  Universal healthcare, as practiced by over two dozen other modern countries produces health outcomes as good or better than the US, covers all residents, and cost per capita half as much as what the US spends.  The argument to delay or defund is simply shameful.

While I believe it is time for changes to strict teacher seniority and also believe that Obamacare only represents a marginal (but morally important) improvement, these are both complicated subjects which need to be hashed out on their own merits.


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