Philadelphia School Reform Commission suspends teacher seniority, other rules

The School Reform Commission met in special session Thursday afternoon to vote on changes to union rules and contract talks as the Dr. Hite's deadline on whether schools will open looms. The open meeting was packed with protesters who heckled Hite and the other members. ( ED HILLE / Staff Photographer )

The Philadelphia School Reform Commission unanimously approved suspending some teacher seniority rules and other state code regulations in order to cope with the school district's budget crisis.

Superintendent William Hite had asked the SRC to suspend parts of the Public School Code, including those that concern seniority rules for laying off and rehiring teachers and guaranteed step wage increases.

He told The Notebook on Wednesday that the suspensions would give the school district more flexibility "to grapple with a budget that does not adequately support schools."

The code suspension means the district can rehire laid-off employees based on specific needs, instead of on seniority. Nearly 4,000 workers were laid off this summer as the school district struggled with $304 million budget gap.

Another change allows the school district to sell vacant property more easily.

Earlier today, Mayor Michael Nutter said that the city would borrow $50 million for the schools. Hite had previously said schools wouldn't be able to start as planned on Sept. 9 without the funds.

The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers had opposed the changes. 

Parents United for Public Education also spoke out against the measures. Founder Helen Gym said in a statement that the seniority-rule changes would mean "that the District has the right to arbitrarily determine which staff to return to schools based on 'need.'"