While spring most often brings blooms and sunshine to mind,
for many school districts there is nothing rosy about the season. Not only is it a time filled with the stress
of state testing, but school districts also find themselves in the thorny
situation of trying to balance the next year's budget on figures not yet provided
by states. In order to be fiscally
responsible and plan for the worst, many districts resort to layoffs.
While some teachers who initially receive pink slips do
eventually get called back, this process is disruptive at best, destructive at
worst. This is especially true in states
where these layoffs occur through "Last In, First Out" (LIFO) in which staff
are laid off on the basis of seniority.
These policies disproportionately affect schools with high proportions of
Last year, the ACLU won a significant victory in Los Angeles when the Los Angeles
County Superior court ruled as much. While
this did nothing to change the state's LIFO mandate, it did protect teachers at
select low-income schools from being laid off. Recently, the San
Francisco Unified superintendent and school board proactively decided to protect 14 of their highest poverty schools
from such disruptive layoffs and bypassed California state mandates.
While other districts would be wise to think proactively in
a similar fashion, simply working around state policy will only get you so far. The districts will, in the end, have to make
the same number of layoffs with the same LIFO policy... they will just come from
schools with better-off students. Regardless
of the poverty level of a school, LIFO undermines the positive benefits made by
effective teachers. Until states make a
change, districts will be left to do their best with their hands tied. It's
time for states to spring into action.