Teaching Profession

Teacher Seniority Rules Under Fire

By Bryan Toporek — February 26, 2010 1 min read
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With teacher layoffs affecting districts across the country, some government officials and parents are concerned “last in, first out” seniority policies are forcing talented young teachers out the door, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Most districts in the country handle teacher layoffs on a seniority basis, as unions say that seniority rules are the only objective way to fire teachers.

But critics of the seniority rule respond that experienced teachers earn more money than recent hires. They argue that, in the end, schools save less money by sparing experienced teachers.

“It is a pent-up issue that has been pushed off and pushed off, and now we have to deal with it,” said Tim Daly, president of the New Teacher Project.

“It’s not just that you will lose teachers that you invested a lot in,” he said, “these cuts are being made in a quality-blind way,” Mr. Daly said. He pointed out that some of the school districts firing newer teachers also ended up laying off teacher-of-the-year nominees last year.

Both New York and California recently asked their state legislatures to ban seniority as the sole motivator in teacher layoffs; Arizona has already passed the same ban.

Lynnell Mickelsen, whose school system has slashed 1,300 teacher jobs since 2001, is organizing a community group to oppose seniority as the sole measure of determining teacher layoffs.

“Terrific teachers have been laid off, and [some of those remaining] are depressingly, relentlessly mediocre,” Mickelsen said. “People are so frustrated about this.”

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.