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 Wisconsin, seniority is the sole factor used to determine which teachers are laid off during a reduction in force. Teachers are laid off "only in the inverse order of the appointment of such teachers." This policy applies to school districts located in counties with populations of 500,000 or more, and it appears that this policy only applies to teachers hired before 1995. It is unclear that the state has policy related to layoffs for its school districts located in smaller counties or for its teachers hired after 1995.
Wisconsin Statute 118.23(4)
Require that districts consider classroom performance as a factor in determining which teachers are laid off during reductions in force.
Wisconsin 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, Wisconsin's current policy puts adult interests before student needs.
Wisconsin recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state also referenced its policy brief on the educator effectiveness system.
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.