Thursday, January 6, 2011

Seniority-Based Layoffs, Can't We Do Better?

From the article Seniority-Based Layoffs, Can't We Do Better? on Rick Hess Straight Up

"Few recent issues in education have garnered more mainstream calls for reform than teacher layoffs. This is partly a matter of timing. The recent economic crisis has forced the education community to revisit an issue it was largely able to ignore for the better part of three decades. But layoffs also bring home to the public the consequences of seniority-provisions in a very tangible way. It's personal when a favorite teacher loses a job. Seniority-driven layoffs--the system that exists in most districts--also strike a nerve as they exemplify for many observers the prioritization of 'what's good for adults' over 'what's good for students.' Calls to reform the seniority-based system are becoming commonplace in the mainstream press, national centers, and even class-action lawsuits.

Seniority as a factor in determining layoffs is, of course, not unique to public education. As a system it has some virtues, being both transparent to employees and easy to administer. But the calls for reform focus on four main problems with the seniority-driven layoff system. First, since less-senior teachers make less money, the seniority-based system necessitates more layoffs to achieve the same budgetary savings. Second, the seniority-based system is by definition quality-blind, so districts are forced to let go of some promising young teachers before at least some less effective teachers who have greater seniority. Third, since less-senior teachers are more likely to teach high-demand subjects like math and special education, a strict seniority-based system would results in more layoffs in the very areas that are hardest to staff. Finally, since less-senior teachers within many districts are disproportionately in low-income, high-minority schools, the seniority-based system results in an inequitable distribution of layoffs across a district."

I am not necessarily a fan of seniority based hiring and firing practices. New people entering the profession often get fired at least once in their teaching career, and it can be a very demeaning experience. However, when people begin speaking about ending tenure forget the reason why tenure was put into in the first place. It was a replacement for increases in pay. If you look at teachers pay in relation to the amount of schooling they are required to have, there is a very large difference between education and other fields. If you remove tenure, teachers are going to be expecting to get a appropriate pay raise.


  1. I was a victim of seniority and budget cuts at my old district. It was a very strange process. I went to a school board meeting, saw my name wasn't on the schedule for next year, went to another school board meeting, and listened as 3 of the 5 members voted to non-renew my contract. Since then I've been skeptical of unions and the entire process of seniority as I was bumped by a special ed teacher on a variance who had a science license.

    I ran across this video on reform lately,, that has had me thinking more about teachers unions and "real reform". I'm not sure what to think of the Bill Gates of the world and the corporate interest in education.

    Thanks for the post!

  2. Thanks for reading it! Must have missed you posting. I would love to see the requirements for removing a teacher who is no longer doing his or her job well be eased. I think that would be a better improvement over removing tenure altogether.

    Hope you're new district is treating you well!