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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Don't push good teachers over the fiscal cliff

School districts are hiring more staffers, even as enrollments decline. When federal pandemic relief funds run out in 2024, who will be tossed off the fiscal cliff?, asks Fordham's Michael Petrilli on Education Next.

State laws and contracts with teachers' unions require "last in, first out" policies with no regard for teacher effectiveness, he writes. After the Great Recession in 2009, districts "laid off the youngest teachers first, cut tutoring and other 'extras,' and eliminated teacher coaches and the like."

Student achievement fell as a result, researchers concluded. "Smart education economists like Marguerite Roza have urged districts to avoid putting lots of new people on the payroll," Petrilli writes, yet most schools have gone on a "hiring bonanza," often lowering standards to fill newly created jobs.

Petrilli advises districts to be "look carefully at the effectiveness of their new teachers and other staff and let go of their weaker ones immediately," before they're protected by tenure. He doesn't have much hope that districts will be able to make lay-off decisions based on teacher quality rather than seniority.

Diversifying the teaching workforce will take a hit if schools lay off by seniority. There are many efforts across the country to increase the number of black and Hispanic teachers.

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