Pa. Supreme Court Denies School District’s Request For Ruling On Teacher Seniority Protections

By Mike DeNardo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has decided not to decide whether the Philadelphia School District has the power to impose work rule changes on teachers next fall.

The School Reform Commission in March asked the State Supreme Court to back the cash-strapped district’s decision to disregard seniority for teacher assignments.  The district wanted to sidestep seniority protections when it came to transferring, laying off and hiring-back teachers, but the high court without comment today denied the district’s request for a ruling.

Chief Justice Ron Castille filed a dissenting opinion, saying he believed the Supreme Court was “duty-bound” to decide because the takeover law gave the Supreme Court exclusive jurisdiction over collective bargaining issues.  Justice Max Baer joined Castille’s dissent.

Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan was pleased with the high court’s action.  In an interview, he said the seniority issue was a labor matter that should be settled through grievance procedures.

“The ruling underscores the constitutional reality that a contract is a bond and it must be honored.”

Superintendent William Hite and SRC chair Bill Green, in a statement, said the denial was not a ruling on the merits of the district’s powers under the state takeover law, and that the district would not back away from its plans.

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