One Small Strike Against Teacher Seniority


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Predictably, teachers’ unions were outraged. “This settlement will do nothing to address the inequities suffered by our most at-risk students,” said United Teachers of Los Angeles Elementary Vice President Julie Washington. “It is a travesty that this settlement, by avoiding real solutions and exacerbating the problem, actually undermines the civil and constitutional rights of our students.” New State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson—the California Teachers Association’s choice for that position—echoed the union line, stating, “The ruling could hurt students by requiring them to be taught by inexperienced teachers rather than finding ways to bring in more experienced and arguably more effective teachers.”

Some perspective is in order. Despite the winners’ elation and the losers’ laments, seniority has not been dismantled. The court ruling protects students at the 45 lowest-performing schools, but not students at the remaining 800 LAUSD campuses. Thus, the unjust seniority system remains in force in about 95 percent of the district’s schools. The LAUSD recently announced that it could lay off almost 4,500 teachers—all based on seniority—in June. No doubt many fine teachers will leave the profession, while many of lower quality stay on. To the detriment of hundreds of thousands of school children, seniority remains alive and well in the Los Angeles public schools. For now, the winners are the children at the bottom-performing schools, who will not lose any teachers due to seniority. The losers are the children at all the other district schools, which will incur more layoffs to accommodate the bottom 45. These schools will no doubt lose some excellent teachers.

Judge Highberger’s ruling, then, isn’t quite the “landmark decision” some claim it to be. But if it ultimately becomes the first step in dismantling a system that discriminates against good teachers—and ultimately children—it may yet earn that status.

Larry Sand is president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network.

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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