California's quality-blind layoffs law harms teachers and students
March 24, 2010
By Timothy Daly and Arun Ramanathan
Over the last several weeks, in what has become a dismal rite of spring, nearly 30,000 teachers throughout California received layoff notices. Knowing how crucial teachers are to student success, you might wonder how schools make the difficult decision of which teachers to cut. After all, if layoffs are unavoidable, you would think that it would be in the interest of everyone to keep the best teachers and cut those who are least effective.
Unfortunately, the only tool that California schools can use to make these decisions is a calendar. That's because of an outdated state law that prevents schools from considering anything other than how long a teacher has worked in the school system to decide who stays and who goes. Schools have no choice but to ignore teacher quality. Newer teachers are always laid off first, regardless of how well they do their jobs.
The result? Even top-performing teachers may be cut. Last year, "teacher of the year" award winners in Santa Barbara, San Diego and Los Angeles were among those who received layoff notices.
Forcing schools to fire some of their best teachers while keeping less effective teachers is just one of many perverse side effects of California's quality-blind layoffs law. Most notably, this approach also disproportionately harms schools that serve the poorest students, English-language learners and students of color, who are more likely to have newer teachers.
What's worse, evidence from other parts of the country suggests that teachers themselves do not support these rules. ..