(Steve Gunn/Education Action Group) – Dozens of Los Angeles schools will be shielded from teacher layoffs and hundreds more must use a more equitable layoff policy than the current seniority-based system, according to a recent decision in county Superior Court.
A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge approved a settlement Friday that protects 45 schools from any teacher layoffs, and requires that teacher dismissals at the district’s remaining schools are spread more equitably, according to the L.A. Times.
An investigation by the newspaper last year revealed that seniority-based layoffs in Los Angeles resulted in “the dismissal of hundreds of highly effective teachers and fell hardest on schools in the city’s poorest neighborhoods.”
The newspaper reports that “far fewer layoffs would be necessary if the decisions were based on performance rather than seniority,” presumably because higher-paid senior teachers who aren’t performing would be subject to dismissal.
Friday’s court decision is in response to a class-action lawsuit brought by civil rights attorneys for students at three district middle schools who argued that seniority-based layoffs had a disproportionate negative effect on poor and minority students, the Times reports.
We have always believed that seniority – one of teachers unions’ most sacred policies – is bad for education because it bases employment decisions on time spent in a classroom rather than actual teaching effectiveness. The settlement in Los Angeles supports our view, and should be heralded as a huge victory for underserved students and education reformers pushing for a more accountable school system.
Predictably, union officials and their supporters in public office, including union-backed state Superintendent Tom Torlakson, fought against the city’s poor and minority students throughout a three day hearing on the case. They argued that a closer look at teacher turnover at struggling schools is necessary, and state law already allows for some exemptions to the seniority-based system, the L.A. Times reports.
We believe the union’s position is a self-serving attempt to preserve an archaic system that benefits veteran teachers at the expense of the students they’re employed to educate. Torlakson’s resistance to needed changes can only be interpreted as political payback for the massive union support he enjoyed during the last election, in our opinion.
“The fact that the union and Mr. Torlakson continue to provide excuses for a seniority system that is hurting students in the city’s most vulnerable communities says a lot about their priorities. Apparently, these people believe that political connections and profitable labor rules are more important than the right of every student to a quality education,” said Kyle Olson, founder and CEO of EAG.
“It’s exactly that kind of sickening mentality that has contributed to the proliferation of failing public schools across the nation,” Olson said. “It’s exactly that type of thinking that continues to put U.S. students farther behind their counterparts in other countries each year.”