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LIFO - “Last In, First Out” Hurts Students, Teachers, and Communities

Last year, in response to more than $130 billion in budget deficits, states made major cuts to education. This year, the gaps and challenges are again severe: 44 states are already predicting budget shortfalls totaling an additional $125 billion. And at least 160,000 teachers are at risk.

What is “Last In, First Out”?

In most jurisdictions, layoffs are based on seniority, an outdated and bureaucratic practice known as “Last In, First Out” (LIFO). LIFO means that the last teacher hired has to be the first teacher fired, regardless of how good they are. A teacher’s performance plays no role in who stays and who goes.

Nick Melvoin, a first year teacher in Los Angeles, describes how he and his students fell victim to Last In, First Out.

What’s Wrong With “Last In, First Out”?

LIFO is in place to protect a system of adult entitlement. It hurts kids, valuable teachers, and whole communities for three reasons:

1. Research indicates that when districts conduct seniority-based layoffs, they end up firing some of their most highly effective educators. These are the inspiring and powerful teachers that students remember for the rest of their lives, and we lose more of them with every LIFO layoff.

2. LIFO policies increase the number of teachers that districts have to lay off. Because junior teachers make less money, districts have to lay off more of them in order to fill budget gaps. We lose more teachers and more jobs.

3. LIFO disproportionately hurts the highest need schools. On average, schools in poorer districts have larger numbers of new teachers — these teachers are the first to lose their jobs in a layoff. High-income areas have more stable systems and fewer newer teachers, and are therefore less impacted by budget cuts. Because of LIFO, we lose the best educators in the neighborhoods that need them the most.

How Important is an Effective Teacher?

Research shows that a highly effective teacher generates 50% more learning than an average teacher. Conversely, an ineffective teacher generates 50% less learning than an average teacher. This means that kids learn three times more in a highly effective teacher’s classroom than in an ineffective teacher’s classroom.

To learn more about the real difference an effective teacher can make, read our Q&A with the education policy expert featured in the movie “Waiting for ‘Superman,’” Eric Hanushek.

How Can We Save Great Teachers?

To eliminate Last In, First Out, we’ll need to millions of parents, teachers, students, and citizens to band together and hold districts, boards of education, and state legislators accountable. Join the movement.