By Tony Romeo

HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS) — The state House has sent the Senate a bill that would allow public schools to consider teacher performance and not just seniority when making furlough or reinstatement decisions.

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Philadelphia Representative James Roebuck, ranking Democrat on the House Education Committee, argued that the legislature’s leadership structure is largely based on seniority.

“If it’s wrong for teachers,” he asked, “why is it right for us?”

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Democrats also complained that the process by which schools could factor in teacher performance in layoffs is flawed. Republican Stan Saylor is the chairman of the House Education Committee.

“Whether you believe that we should have the best teachers in the classroom, or whether you want to continue protecting teachers who are not proficient in teaching our children and grandchildren – that’s the decision that you’re making today,” Saylor said.

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Republicans say they are trying to protect the 98% of teachers who are rated proficient and above. The bill goes to the Senate for consideration.