Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow school administrators to base layoff decisions in part on teachers’ performance, as measured by the state’s new evaluation system.

“My goal is to protect our high-quality educators, regardless of seniority,” said Rep. Ryan Aument, the bill’s co-sponsor. “Seniority should not be the primary way decisions are made.”

If the bill passes, Pennsylvania will join the 22 states requiring that seniority not be the only factor in teacher layoff decisions, and the 18 states that explicitly mandate teacher performance be considered, according to National Council on Teacher Quality.

“When a layoff comes in Pennsylvania now, it doesn’t matter how they’re doing. Good teachers who are knocking it out of the park can be laid off just like somebody who’s phoning it in,” said Nancy Waymack, managing director for district policy at NCTQ. “I think for those folks who are really knocking it out of the park who may be lower in seniority when the layoff comes up, they may be more likely to look around and see if there are other (career) options that are more secure.”

Pennsylvania law allows teachers to attain permanent status after three years on the job. Aument tried to amend the bill to make it five years and require that the two most recent evaluations showed the teacher at least “satisfactory” before being granted permanent status. Though his amendment failed in committee, he said he plans to try again on the House floor.

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