Jonathan Cetel is the founding executive director of PennCAN. He lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

In his letter to the editor in response to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s October 3 editorial “Money isn’t everything,” PFT President Jerry Jordan concludes by saying, “As The Inquirer points out, ending seniority would return the days of patronage, when teachers’ jobs might be dependent on ward leaders.”

Actually, the editorial says the exact opposite:

“Trust is typically lacking in the contract negotiations. Jordan shouldn’t have suggested that better funding is all the schools need to improve, or that making seniority rules more flexible would automatically lead to abuse.”

Jordan suggests that the Inquirer is offering support for his position, when in fact they are scolding him for being unwilling to consider changes to the outdated seniority system.

At PennCAN, we support ending seniority so that principals can build creative teams of effective teachers. So does a broad-coalition of groups, ranging from PCCY to Congreso, the Philadelphia Education Fund to the NAACP. Our polling shows that 80 percent of Pennsylvanians support the issue, including 77 percent from teacher’s union households.

To be sure, there are fair and principled critiques of our perspective on seniority. Consider this op-ed in the Notebook from my old colleague at the Teacher Action Group and education warrior Ron Whitehorne.

But arguing that ending seniority would return to a system of patronage is a scare tactic that the Inquirer and the general public just don’t buy. 


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