There is no question that public schools in Philadelphia need to be fully funded, and that obligation ultimately rests with the governor and those of us who serve in the state legislature.

But money alone will not address all the problems that confront our schools. We need real reform in Philadelphia, starting with eliminating seniority as the sole basis for hiring, transferring, or laying off teachers. I learned this lesson the hard way, and it was my son who paid the price.

Two years ago, my son was a gifted special-needs student at one of the highest-rated public schools in the region. Because of his situation, he required an Individualized Education Program, and we were fortunate to have a terrific young special-education teacher working on his behalf. He did outstanding work with my son, who, for the first time in his life, told me "going to school is fun."

Then, in the wake of School District budget cuts, that teacher was laid off before the start of the 2011-12 school year. It was a decision based solely on seniority, and it was a disaster for us.

The replacement - a more "experienced" teacher - didn't understand my son's needs, and the results were heart-wrenching. This youngster who had finally come to believe that school was "fun" became increasingly frustrated in the classroom. As a result, he was treated as a disciplinary problem. The situation deteriorated quickly, and I had no choice but to remove him from the school and find a better situation for him.

My son lost more than a year of his education because a gifted teacher lost his job for seniority reasons. Let me be clear: I am not antiunion or anti-teacher, and I am not saying that experience shouldn't be a factor in hiring, transferring, or terminating a teacher. But I know from bitter experience that seniority cannot be the only factor in every case. It's time to change work rules that cater to the adults running the system, instead of the children they serve.

The majority of Philadelphia public school teachers are qualified and committed educators who work hard for our children. But that is not true of all, and seniority cannot and should not protect underperforming teachers.

This is not a partisan issue. Reforms that maximize opportunities for all children enjoy strong support among the many low-income Democratic parents I have the privilege to represent. They want their children to have access to great teachers in every classroom. They understand, as I do, that when it comes to our children's education, we have only one shot to get it right.

Yes, we should demand more financial support for our public schools. But let's also support work rules that put children first.