State Rep. Dush Responds to Gov. Wolf’s Veto of Teachers Act Bill

tom-wolff[1]BROOKVILLE, Pa. (EYT) — Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed House Bill 805, despite the wishes of some in the region.

HB 805, also known as the Protecting Excellent Teachers Act, would have done away with using seniority as the sole factor in teacher layoffs and would have required teacher performance to guide layoff and reinstatement decisions.

State Rep. Cris Dush (R-Jefferson) said Wednesday that this wasn’t meant to be an assault on unions.

dush“I do understand the need for unions, I’ve been in an union. The rank and file teachers don’t understand where I’m coming from. We’d rather see see poor teachers let go as opposed to programs that are necessary,” Dush said.

“According to the figures, 98.2 percent of our teachers rate as distinguished or proficient and they are not at risk. If you are going to let anyone go, why not the bottom 1.8 percent?

“The teachers union says it would allow school districts to target the highest-paid teachers, but there is a law preventing that.”

For Wolf, he had his reasons for not signing the bill.

In a letter to the House of Representatives, Wolf explained his decision.

“This bill relies heavily on a single score from the teacher evaluation system, as opposed to using the entire method evaluation. At a time when there is bipartisan agreement that we need to reduce our reliance on high-stakes testing, we should not use high-stakes test scores as the benchmark for teacher quality.”

“The teacher evaluation system was created in 2012 to evaluate teachers on multiple measures of student success. As designed, teachers who didn’t achieve satisfactory scores across the multiple measures would lose any acquired protection from seniority.”

“This process was designed to identify a teacher’s weakness and then provide the opportunity to improve their teaching through coaching and mentorship. “Teachers who do not improve after being given the opportunity and tools to do so are the ones who should no longer be in the classroom. This is the system we should be using to remove ineffective teachers,” Wolf wrote.

Bill author Rep. Stephen Bloom (R-Cumberland) issued the following statement Wednesday in response to the veto.

“I am extremely disappointed that Gov. Wolf has chosen to side with special interests today instead of Pennsylvania students. I question whether the governor even took the time to read the legislation before making the hasty decision to rob our kids of the guarantee that they will get to keep their best teachers.”

“His stated reasons for vetoing this commonsense reform reflect grave misapprehensions on his part about what the bill actually does and does not do. The rationale he offered suggests that his decision was made in reliance upon the false talking points and distortions of special interest critics who are defending Pennsylvania’s dysfunctional status quo. Sadly, the governor’s veto preserves the bad laws that too often force our best educators out of our kid’s classrooms.”

Jerry Oleksiak, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, applauded Wolf’s veto. Oleksiak said, “The governor was right when he decided to veto the bill. Experience matters in public education. With Gov. Wolf’s veto, lawmakers can get back to work on what Pennsylvanians really want – funding our schools and supporting what really helps kids learn.”

Pennsylvania is one of only six remaining states that require seniority to be the sole factor in determining layoffs.

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