I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Layoffs, Smayoffs

Failed teacher and failed superintendent Michelle Rhee just hates - HATES! - teacher seniority:
Kristen Briggs was one of about a thousand educators who lost their jobs teaching in Philadelphia schools this year. But to her students, she was much more than a statistic.
Briggs, who taught special education at Lincoln High School, is the kind of teacher any principal would hasten to hire - and never willingly let go. But Briggs' principal didn't have a choice in the matter.
She was laid off under an antiquated and harmful policy known as "last in, first out," or "LIFO" for short. It requires that when layoffs occur, the last teachers hired are the first fired - regardless of their effectiveness as teachers.
When they're not comparing themselves to Nelson Mandela, so does 50can:
In Minnesota’s budget crunch, teacher layoffs are inevitable. School districts face million-dollar deficits, and salaries are the bulk of their budgets. Many school districts are out of options.
When layoffs are a must, our priority should be keeping the best teachers. But we don’t look at how good or bad a teacher is at all when deciding which teachers to keep and which to let go. Minnesota is one of only 14 states that require districts to use seniority as the deciding factor in layoff decisions.
Are any of you as bothered as I am by the casual tone these corporate "reformers" take to layoffs? That they just can't be helped? This in a time of massive income inequity and  historically low taxation on the wealthy?

50can is actually quite upfront about the fact that this is really about money:
Seniority-based layoffs lead to more job losses. Because nearly all teachers are paid more for each year of experience, seniority-based layoff policies require districts to retain the highest-paid teachers while letting go of lower-paid teachers. More teachers must lose their jobs for districts to meet their budget targets than if layoffs were based primarily on effectiveness, with a mix of new and experienced teachers receiving pink slips.10 If a district has to close a $10 million deficit, it would have to lay off 200 new teachers who each cost the district $50,000. But it would have to let go just 133 more experienced teachers who cost the district $75,000 each.11
Ah - the problem is that senior teachers make more. Do you think the corporate "reformers" would be as passionate about LIFO if this wasn't the case?

I'll leave aside the huge problems with identifying "good" and "bad" teachers, the morale destroying implications of breaking decades-old promises to teachers, the corporate-fueled dismissal of collective bargaining rights, and ask only this:

You corporate "reformers" say you want more good teachers like Kristen Briggs in the classroom. Do you think you are helping to recruit more people like her to education by taking such a casual attitude toward layoffs?


KatieO said...

Agree. Something I thought about when reading that Briggs "was laid off under an antiquated and harmful policy known as "last in, first out," or "LIFO" for short. It requires that when layoffs occur, the last teachers hired are the first fired - regardless of their effectiveness as teachers" is that this statement assumes that the older teachers are not as effective as her. If the principal is any good, ALL the teachers should be effective, great teachers meaning ANY layoff is a loss for kids. Why the assumption that only the young ones are good?

It is about the money, no question there. But also, I think you could add it's about compliance and control. Younger, untenured teachers are less likely to speak up about political issues or unhealthy reforms being forced upon schools.

Schools should have a healthy mix of veteran and newer teachers. The problem is layoffs. I don't care how dismal the economy gets, education cuts should be off-limits.

Duke said...

You are on to something. It is all about compliance and control. We do not want critical thinking in kids, and we don't want it in teachers.

Everyone just take your soma and do as you're told...

Lisa said...

Just a thought about word choice, and this applies more to the NJEA (who need to hire PR pros, imo) and AARP in their SS ads: a large part of succeeding in public debate is controlling the lexicon; words matter.

Pensions, SS, benefits, tenure, etc. are not "promises." They are CONTRACTS.

Promises are assurances given by one party to another, may or may not be legally binding, and don't necessarily require anything on the part of the recipient.

Contracts, however, are negotiated agreements, legally binding, in which both parties compromise, give back, make assurances, and provide something to the other.

These are important distinctions that impact public perception and understanding. We shouldn't--and can't let them--characterize contracts as "promises." Just sayin' ;-)...

jcg said...

The reformy movement vultures don't believe in contracts for worker bees, they aren't good for poor kids. From teachers, parents and kids they want only alignment and obedience.

Those of us in TN, lucky winners of Race to the Top bribe money, are undergoing a new teacher evaluation (I call it the realignment and obedience training) program designed by the Miliken Foundation (Junk-bond king Michael & bro Lowell had a come to god moment to "save schools" after Michael was released from federal prison for financial fraud in 1994 but I digress.)

The new teacher eval program is designed to do 2 things 1) standardize teaching practices by deeming a checklist of behaviors acceptable by assuring all "certified" evaluator scores align with (e.g., are reliable) national raters scores; and 2) only 15% of all evaluated teachers will be rated as acceptable for tenure and/or raises as the "solid" teaching video examples rated 3 on a 5 pt likert scale.
This eval program is known as TAP and in TN is called TEAM, renamed for our state.

DON't agree to ANY outsourced evaluation system or be seduced by the potential for more money as the TAP program is rigged.