HB 178, the school code bill, became law Sunday (Nov. 5) without the governor's signature.
The bill allows teachers and other professional employees to be laid off for economic reasons. It requires that districts use flawed Act 82 evaluations instead of seniority to determine layoffs and it prohibits unions and districts from negotiating language over layoffs during collective bargaining.
AFTPA believes this bill will make it more difficult for districts to attract and keep experienced, dedicated teachers, particularly in struggling schools that need experienced educators the most.
In a letter to members, AFTPA President Ted Kirsch said, "I want to assure you that AFT Pennsylvania is pursuing every possible action – legal, regulatory and legislative – to stop the most damaging provisions of HB 178 from disrupting the lives of our members and the education of 1.7 million children who attend public schools in the Commonwealth."
- Exploring the possibility of a legal challenge.
- Meeting with the Department of Education and the Education Secretary to ameliorate the impact of using a faulty evaluation system to suspend and recall teachers and other professional employees.
- Contacting allies in the legislature to propose legislation to remove the damaging provisions of the mandatory Act 82 evaluations.
- Meeting with our Executive Council and AFTPA K-12 presidents to explore further actions.
Bill 178 made other significant changes to the school code, including:
- Allowing high-performing charter schools to merge into “multiple charter school organizations,” which are essentially charter school districts managed by a single board of directors, with state approval.
- Requiring schools to provide meals to students regardless of whether they have money to pay for them. It stops “lunch shaming” – stigmatizing students who cannot pay or are in arrears paying for school meals.
- Allowing $10 million more in Educational Improvement Tax Credits, bringing the amount of tax credits to businesses and individual who contribute to scholarship organizations to $135 million a year.
- Delaying use of Keystone exams as a graduation requirement;
- Mandating that students in grades six through 12 receive opioid-abuse prevention instruction as part of existing alcohol, tobacco and drug education starting in 2018-19 school year.