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Seniority-Based Layoffs: A Matter of Social Justice

May 23, 2012 posted by Francisco Castillo

Francisco Castillo is the Deputy National Press Secretary for StudentsFirst. Prior to joining StudentsFirst, he served as Director of Communications, responsible for planning and developing strategic communications for Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom.

California's budget crisis is getting a lot of attention, but one closely related problem isn't receiving the level of scrutiny it deserves. And that involves looming teacher layoffs and the outdated and harmful system governing them.

No one wants teacher layoffs to take place, but they are an unfortunate reality this year, and California's current layoff system makes the situation so much worse. The state is one of just 11 across the country that require layoffs to be conducted in a seniority-based manner, in which seniority determines who should stay and who should go rather than a teacher's record working with kids. These policies are not showing great teachers that they are valued and have a significant negative impact on the quality of education our students receive.

StudentsFirst today released a new research brief "Great Teachers for Every Child: A Matter of Social Justice" to shed light on California's ineffective policy and its impact on our kids.

The brief examines how the pending layoffs, and the way they will be conducted, are likely to impact student achievement in California and how they will disproportionately affect low-income and minority communities. Our schools with the highest percent of low-income and minority students also have the highest percent of new teachers. Most of these new teachers would not be laid off if layoffs were based on teacher quality. Our most disadvantaged schools will have to deal with the consequences of continuous teacher turnover and the students will lose great teachers. This is unfair and we must put an end to these policies now.

Without a doubt, seniority-based layoffs threaten to widen the achievement gap between our most disadvantaged children and their wealthier, white peers at a time when we ought to be focusing in a laser-like way on closing that divide.

Please take a moment to read our research brief and help us bring about change in California.