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Furloughs pegged to hit some Pittsburgh schools hard

| Wednesday, May 9, 2012, 8:15 p.m.

At least six Pittsburgh elementary schools could lose more than 20 percent of their teachers under a plan to furlough teachers based on seniority, the district's superintendent said Wednesday.

"We're going to furlough teachers," Linda Lane told the Tribune-Review in a meeting with reporters and editors. "If we do it strictly on a seniority basis, there's some outcomes we find highly undesirable."

Under the district's plan to furlough 450 teachers based on seniority, Faison School in Homewood would lose 21 of its 42 teachers; Manchester School would lose 10 of 26 teachers; Martin Luther King Accelerated Learning Academy in the North Side would lose 14 of 38 teachers; Arlington Acclererated Learning Academy would lose 12 of 33 teachers; Weil Accelerated Learning Academy in the Hill District would lose eight of 24 teachers; and Allegheny Traditional Academy in the North Side would lose seven of 30 teachers.

"We're going to retain some of our most effective teachers, but we're also going to furlough some of them," Lane said.

Nina Esposito-Visgitis, president of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, said any plan to use teacher effectiveness as the basis of furloughs would be too subjective. State law prohibits school districts from furloughing teachers using any measure other than seniority unless the teachers union agrees to something different.

"Teaching is so intricate," she said. "It changes student by student, class by class, curriculum by curriculum. You couldn't make it fair."

Pittsburgh Public Schools has about 2,000 teachers, nurses, counselors and other professionals. The 1,890 teachers with seniority within their school have an average of 12.7 years with the district.

Lane said teachers with as many as seven years with the district could be subject to furlough.

The teacher cuts are part of a plan adopted last fall to reduce the district's budget deficits, which are expected to grow from $21.7 million in 2012 to $30.5 million in 2015. The district expects to save $11.6 million later this year from the teacher cuts and $29.1 million next year.

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