By Mike DeNardo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) —  A group of education reform advocates is pushing the Philadelphia School Reform Commission to use its power to eliminate seniority as a basis for assigning teachers. 

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Seniority has been a major issue in the ongoing negotiations between the school district and its teachers’ union.   Now, two groups — the Philadelphia School Partnership and PennCAN — want the School Reform Commission to use its authority to eliminate union seniority rights when assigning staff. 

    “Imagine a professional sports team, what it would look like if the league could just assign veteran players to the team and bump out the younger players,” says PennCAN executive director Jonathan Cetel.  “That wouldn’t work in sports, and yet that’s exactly what we’re doing in the School District of Philadelphia every day.”

PSP executive director Mark Gleason says eliminating seniority would go a long way toward freeing up $45 million in funding being held by the state (see related story).

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School district spokesman Fernando Gallard would only say that the district is still negotiating with the union.

“At this time we’re still at the table, and that’s where we are,” he tells KYW Newsradio.

Philadelphia Federation of Teachers’ president Jerry Jordan said in a statement, “This attack on seniority will do nothing to restore laid-off school staff [or] put books in the hands of schoolchildren.”  Jordan said, “The seniority provisions in the school code were implemented to protect school employees from the atmosphere of patronage clearly favored by PSP and PennCAN.”

    The action comes on the eve of the introduction of a bill in Harrisburg that would eliminate the part of the school code that requires layoffs and recalls to be governed by seniority.

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