By Mike DeNardo, Todd Quinones
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The School Reform Commission has voted to sidestep union seniority rules, as it hires back laid-off teachers for the start of school. And the teachers union is hopping mad about it.
Teachers and parents booed throughout the meeting as the School Reform Commission set aside union seniority rules, and stopped union pay increases based on service time.
Superintendent William Hite says using SRC’s power to bypass union contracts is necessitated by the financial crisis.
“We must better manage staff as we prepare for the 2013-2014 school year,” said Hite.
Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan called the move “an abomination,” and told the SRC it shouldn’t have imposed its will on his members.
“There is a way to do it. There is a way to sit down with the union and to talk about it and get it done so that we can open schools in September,” said Jordan.
Critics’ charge children are caught being used as political pawns in yet another financial crisis involving the School District of Philadelphia.
There is a lot of anger, and frustration to go along with allegations Thursday’s vote is really just an end around way of trying to break up the teacher’s union.
Some parents are outraged.
“I say no to an SRC that has harmed our children in the 13 years you’ve been here,” parent Diane Kayne said.
Because the city committed to providing $50 million, about a 1,000 out of the close to 4,000 people who were laid off this summer will get their jobs back with the district.
There will also be some money left over to buy paper and other school supplies for the kids.
But the School Reform Commission citing extraordinary circumstance voted to suspend parts of the public school code and hire teachers back, based on quote ‘needs’, not on seniority rules.
That is causing a major rift with union leaders and the rank and file who worry experienced hired paid teachers will be left out.
“When it comes to talking about the needs of the students our members have been telling you our children need more not less,” President of the Federation of Teachers Jerry Jordan said.
“Destroying teachers’ seniority is removing professional educators who have the most experience and have shown years and years of dedication to a school district that blames us for every possible problem,” teacher Gail Kantor said.
Some assistant principals, counselors and noon time aides are included in the re-hires.
SRC leaders argue the unanimous vote on Thursday isn’t about union busting, but rather having the flexibility needed to fill specific holes in staffing.
“How do we manage the fewer staff that we have when we are trying to open schools is less than 25 days,” Superintendent William Hite said.
“I don’t think there has been a more extraordinary time for the SRC than this one,” SRC Chairman Pedro Ramos said.
The exact numbers of how many people will be rehired are not available.
Jordan says the union is exploring legal action to block the move.