The state should require that its school districts consider classroom performance as a factor in determining which teachers are laid off when a reduction in force is necessary.
In California, the factors used to determine which teachers are laid off
during a reduction in force consider a teacher's tenure status and
seniority. Permanent employees may not be terminated "while any
probationary employee, or any other employee with less seniority" is
available to be terminated instead.
In 2014, the California Superior Court for the County of Los Angeles, in its historic decision in Vergara v. California, struck down five provisions of the state's Education Code as unconstitutional, including the provision relating to teacher layoffs. The judge's finding was stayed, pending appeal.
California Education Code 44955
Require that districts consider
classroom performance as a factor in determining which teachers are laid
off during reductions in force.
California should give districts the flexibility to determine their own layoff policies, but it should do so within a framework that ensures that classroom performance is considered.
Ensure that seniority is not the only factor used to determine which teachers are laid off.
Although it may be useful to consider seniority among other criteria, California's current policy puts adult interests before student needs.
The California Department of Education declined to respond to NCTQ's analysis, citing ongoing litigation related to the state's teacher effectiveness policies.
LIFO policies put
adult interests before student needs.
Across the country, most districts utilize "last in, first out" policies in the event of teacher layoffs. Most states leave these decisions to district discretion; some states require layoffs to be based on seniority. Such policies fail to give due weight to a teacher's classroom performance and risk sacrificing effective teachers while maintaining low performers.
Policies that prioritize seniority in layoff decisions can also cause significant upheaval in schools and school districts. As teachers who are newer to the classroom traditionally draw lower salaries, a seniority-based layoff policy is likely to require that districts lay off a larger number of probationary teachers rather than a smaller group of ineffective teachers to achieve the same budget reduction.
States can leave districts flexibility in determining layoff policies, but they should do so while also ensuring that classroom performance is considered. Further, if performance is prioritized, states need not prohibit the use of seniority as an additional criterion in determining who is laid off.
Reductions in Force: Supporting Research
See National Council on Teacher Quality, "Teacher Layoffs: Rethinking 'Last-Hired, First-Fired' Policies", 2010; The New Teacher Project, "The Case Against Quality-Blind Teacher Layoffs" (2011); D. Boyd, H. Lankford, S. Loeb, and J. Wyckoff, "Teacher Layoffs: An Empirical Illustration of Seniority v. Measures of Effectiveness", Calder Institute, July 2010, Brief 12; D. Goldhaber and R. Theobald, "Assessing the Determinants and Implications of Teacher Layoffs." Calder Institute, Working Paper 55, December 2010; C. Sepe and M. Roza, "The Disproportionate Impact of Seniority-Based Layoffs on Poor, Minority Students." Center on Reinventing Public Education, May 2010.