High court won't affirm district's tossing seniority

The state Supreme Court on Thursday said it would not affirm the Philadelphia School Reform Commission's decision to make drastic work-rule changes for teachers in the fall.

This spring, the commission asked the state's top court to declare that it has the authority to impose the changes, including disregarding seniority for teacher assignments, transfers, layoffs, and recalls.

The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers strongly opposed the SRC's move to bypass seniority.

The implications of the two-page order issued by the court Thursday were not immediately clear. Principals spent the spring filling teacher vacancies based not on seniority but on who they wanted to hire. Whether those decisions will be undone remains to be seen.

Fernando Gallard, a spokesman for the district, said the court order had "absolutely nothing to do with the merits of the case."

Deborah R. Willig, a PFT attorney, disagreed.

"I think the Supreme Court was persuaded that this was nothing more than a typical labor dispute that ought to be settled through the collective bargaining process or the appropriate grievance mechanisms," Willig said.

From the union's point of view, the court's order undoes many of the SRC's most recent actions.

"Everything they have done that is violating provisions of the expired contract is null and void," Willig said.

This is a developing story.