As teacher layoffs soar, rules that protect senior teachers, regardless of competence, are under attack, reports the Wall Street Journal.
In New York and California, school leaders want the state legislature ban the sole use of seniority in layoff decisions.
Last year, Arizona passed a ban, and schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee in Washington, D.C., in addition to letting go some new teachers, laid off some who would otherwise have been protected by union seniority rules. Teachers unions in Arizona and Washington sued over the moves, but they lost their court challenges.
Veteran teachers are attractive targets for cost cutters because they earn so much more than new teachers. A top-scale teacher may earn twice as much as an entry-level teacher — but not be anywhere near twice as good.
In Seattle last year, parents started asking, “Why is my great teacher being laid off while this teacher, who everybody knows is not a good teacher, doesn’t get laid off?” said Venus Velazquez, a parent who said she is one of dozens attempting to remove the seniority protection from the next teacher contract.
. . . “I consider myself a union supporter, but I don’t support the seniority system,” said Lynnell Mickelsen of Minneapolis, who is organizing a community group to oppose the main use of seniority in layoffs.
In a shrinking school system, which has resulted in the loss of 1,300 teacher jobs since 2001, “terrific teachers have been laid off, and [some of those remaining] are depressingly, relentlessly mediocre,” Ms. Mickelsen said. “People are so frustrated about this.”
The underlying issue is that teacher pay bears no relation to teacher effectiveness. If the best paid teachers were the best teachers, there would be an incentive to keep them in hard times.