Saturday, April 24, 2010

Teacher Layoffs and Unions

New York City schools are planning to lay off 8,500 teachers. According to union rules, senior teachers keep their jobs and newbies get the boot.

Facing the likelihood of the largest number of layoffs in more than a generation, [schools chancellor] Mr. Klein and his counterparts around the country say that the rules, which require that the most recently hired teachers be the first to lose their jobs, are an anachronism in the era of accountability that will upend their efforts of the last few years to recruit new teachers, improve teacher performance and reward those who do best.

“Nobody I’ve talked to thinks seniority is a rational way to go,” Mr. Klein said. “Obviously there are some senior teachers who are extraordinary. You recruit young talent you think is good for the future, and to just get rid of that by the numbers seems to me to be a nonsensical approach.”

This month city officials persuaded lawmakers in Albany to introduce a bill that would allow the city to decide which teachers to let go, although its chances of passing are slim.

I find it strange that school administrators are not allowed to decide which teachers they want to let go. It seems that an administrator would need to have control of their personnel to properly administrate. Am I wrong here?

Seniority-based layoffs will prevent young, talented teachers from infusing the system with new life and new ideas. It also prevents administrators from laying off teachers who are senior but past their prime. Finally, it discourages new teachers from even entering the profession:

Mr. Borock, the Bronx teacher, said that the layoffs would discourage newer graduates from entering the profession. “If you have a number of job opportunities, as many of us did, and you have a nagging feeling in the back of your mind that you could lose this job really quickly,” he asked, “why would anyone want to go into that?”

Why indeed.

While a Times study has shown that teachers with 6-10 years experience usually outperform 1st and 2nd year teachers, it is important that young teachers are given the opportunity to grow.

Without fresh blood, our public education system will continue to decline. Without the ability to say who stays and who gos, our school administrators cannot be expected to revive our ailing education system.

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