The Pennsylania House and Senate are considering legislation that would make it easier for school districts to furlough teachers. Currently, school districts can lay off teachers only if there is a drop in enrollment over multiple years or if educational programs are eliminated, or if there is a merger of districts.
Lebanon County Republican State Senator Mike Folmer is sponsoring legislation that would allow districts to lay off teachers for economic reasons. The House Education Committee held a hearing on the legislation this week and their Senate counterparts are expected to do so soon.
Folmer says school districts need to be run more like businesses. But Jerry Oleksiak, treasurer of the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) told the committee schools are not businesses......"Schools cannot shut their doors when revenue is insufficient, nor can they turn away any student, regardless of the individual challenges they may present."
However, school boards are looking to balance budgets and their authority to raise taxes was diminished by approval of the Taxpayer Relief Act of 2006 which offset some property tax reductions with revenues from gambling.
Wythe Keever, spokesman for the PSEA, says the union is very aware of the problems the recession has caused for school districts.....
"What we're saying is if you're going to look at this type of legislation, then look at it the right way and create some clear and hard criteria under which a school might do an economic furlough" rather than allow school boards to determine when economic conditions justify layoffs based on subjective criteria. Keever says class sizes could go up.