One Small Strike Against Teacher Seniority

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This article is reprinted from City Journal.

Like many other cities, Los Angeles is subject to a state education code requiring that, in the event of teacher layoffs, the last hired is the first fired. Because they invariably have a high percentage of new hires, the lowest-performing schools usually take the brunt of the layoffs under this system, destabilizing them further by requiring a revolving door of substitutes.

When the Los Angeles Unified School District, facing municipal belt-tightening, sent out “reduction in force” notices in 2009, three middle schools—Gompers, Liechty, and Markham, each ranking in the bottom 10 percent of California schools by academic performance—were particularly hard hit. Sixty percent of the teachers at Liechty, 48 percent of the teachers at Gompers, and 46 percent of the teachers at Markham received them. By contrast, the LAUSD sent layoff notices to just 17.9 percent of its teachers system-wide. The notices resulted in a large number of teacher vacancies at all three schools. By 2010, according to an AP story, “More than half of the teaching staffs at Edwin Markham, John H. Liechty and Samuel Gompers middle schools lost their jobs . . . at Markham, the layoffs included almost the entire English department along with every 8th grade history teacher.”

Alleging that the last-hired, first-fired policy violated poor students’ right to a quality education, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California filed a class-action lawsuit. Last month, Superior Judge William Highberger ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. The judge cited a previously unacknowledged clause of the education code stating that a district may deviate from seniority “for purposes of maintaining or achieving compliance with constitutional requirements related to equal protection of the laws.”

According to the ACLU, “The settlement reached between the plaintiffs and LAUSD and the Mayor’s Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, protects students in up to 45 Targeted Schools in the unfortunate event of budget-based teacher layoffs.” Determined annually, the 45 schools will be comprised of 25 under-performing and difficult-to-staff schools. Up to 20 additional schools will be selected for protection from layoffs based on the “likelihood that the school will be negatively and disproportionately affected by teacher turnover.” Many, like incoming LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy, were thrilled, calling the decision “historic.” Others claimed that it was the beginning of the end of the seniority-based staffing system.

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  • Amused

    I don't think this ruling will stand up to Appeal . After teachers with low seniority are furloughed , those remaining , by seniority will be shifted to fill the vacancies left by them .There is no guarantee in any Union /public or private where your work location will be . Thus if a history teacher is needed in another school within the district , that position would be filled by seniority , or inverse seniority if there are not takers . This would be in compliance with any " constitutional requirements " .
    So don't break out the champagne just yet .

  • sflbib

    It would seem that a good part of the inferior teachers are members of the "Turkey Trot" — those who are shuffled to poor neighborhood schools where there are fewer parents likely to complain. These would probably have been around long enough to have seniority to avoid lay-off. Could it be that the ACLU inadvertently got on the right side since the school district can lay off the "turkeys" and keep the better teachers?

  • Amused

    I think you're reading more into it than is . The ACLU is arguing that the underperforming schools would suffer more from teacher layoffs . To remedy this , teachers may in fact be assigned not by seniority but by qualification . Since it is difficult to fill the openings in troub;le schools , most teachers there are of low seniority , which also means short on experience .In that respect ,ACLU is on the right side . That however does not translate to "laying off the turkeys .." Under performing schools are not always the fault of bad teachers . School boards determine hirinjg standards , and thoise sdtandards are commensurate with pay .For if you want to pay teachers 16k or so , you will have to lower your standards , you simply wont atrtract good teachers ….just like anything else , you get what you pay for .

  • aspacia

    You have no idea. Administrators have been nailing me for teaching the base: reading comprehension, grammar and spelling skills, and then implementing the higher level skills. Oh, No, I really like the posters and pictures students drew. Pictures?? Pictures??? They are reading at the 3rd-6th grade level, are seniors, and you want pictures. Give me a break.

    You bloggers should dig into what is really going on in schools, and the fact that Bill Ayres is the current pedagogy guru who avidly promotes communism. The dumber the society, the easier to control