Teacher layoffs ahead: Should seniority prevail? Six considerations.

Thousands of teachers are being notified this spring that their jobs are in jeopardy – and many of those layoffs may actually occur, given the severe budget crises affecting state and local governments.

2. What are the arguments for abolishing seniority-based layoffs?

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP/File
Former D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee at the podium after announcing her resignation on Oct. 13, 2010, during a news conference in Washington.

Critics of "last in, first out" (LIFO) laws say that getting rid of them is a no-brainer. Why should a district have to lose one of its best teachers, while keeping a teacher whom everyone knows is a dud simply because the latter has put in more years? Such laws may seem fair to some teachers, they say, but they perform a huge disservice to students.

Moreover, LIFO laws can disproportionately affect high-needs schools, which typically have more new teachers. And they mean that more teachers will need to be laid off, since the newest teachers are also the cheapest for the district.

Michelle Rhee, founder of the advocacy group StudentsFirst and former chancellor of District of Columbia schools, has made getting rid of LIFO a core issue. "Right now we know that 85 percent of the people we're laying off shouldn't be laid off," she says. "We need to work at getting to a system that's rigorous, but also fair."

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