To the Editor:
Isn’t it time to face reality and use teacher layoffs as a chance to improve the overall quality of the instruction students receive (“Layoff Policies Could Diminish Teacher Reform,” Feb. 25, 2009)? Seniority-based policies are designed to allow teachers to coast after they receive tenure (most don’t coast, but too many do). An education system committed to the goal of doing the best job possible to educate all children to their full potential would not use seniority alone to decide who gets laid off.
Instead, it would cut the least-effective teachers so that the average competence of the remaining faculty would be much higher. Yet when I’ve complained about the way kids are harmed by seniority policies, multiple superintendents have told me, “You don’t understand—education is run to benefit the adults who work here, not the kids.” At least they were honest.
The insider power groups’ grip on decisionmaking must be broken. Whenever legislators look to improve education policy, they ask for input from the “experts” on what to do. But any option that might actually work is suppressed, because it might cause some shift in power. The result is a system that protects everyone in the process, except the kids.
In the end, the selfish actions of these adults will hurt us all. Administrators and unions should think about the long-term impact of their immediate-term intransigence.
Colorado Springs, Co.
A version of this article appeared in the March 04, 2009 edition of Education Week as Teacher Layoffs: A Chance To Improve Instruction?