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Seniority Still a Splinter Issue in AFT Districts

Although neither of the teachers' unions is crazy about efforts nationally to undo the weight given to seniority in various personnel decisions, the question seems to be emerging as a particular issue in cities and states with American Federation of Teachers affiliates.

This may be a function of AFT's tilt toward urban districts, some of which have been quite hard hit by the economy compared with the more suburban locales served by the National Education Association. But in any case, two new examples crossed my desk this morning.

First, the Providence Journal reports on a piece of state legislation being debated that would base layoff decisions (and recalls) on evaluations results ahead of seniority, move the pink-slip deadline (one of the earliest in the nation) from March 1 to June 1, and probably most controversially of all, tie the tenure-granting process to a succession of evaluations. The Rhode Island AFT chapter opposes the bill.

In Pittsburgh, the school board has announced plans to enter negotiations with the city teachers' union about basing layoffs on performance rather than seniority; the union seems less than excited about the idea. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette quotes the union president there as saying that seniority is the "only fair way" to do layoffs.

It's worth noting that a disagreement over seniority in Pittsburgh a few years back resulted in the scuttling of a district- and union-designed teacher-residency program.

AFT has been hard at work beginning projects on teacher evaluation and due process, but it has been less clear about the follow-through: the related implications for tenure, seniority, and placement.

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