First Out On Seniority?

Seniority-based layoffs on the ropes in LA in a case that will reverberate nationally.

7 Replies to “First Out On Seniority?”

  1. This is a potential threat to all unions throughout the country, and it was supported by the ACLU.

    Why is it such a threat?

    The agreement allows LAUSD to unilaterally change the contract, thus undermining collective bargaining. Yes, it sucks that poor and underperforming schools end up with the most new and inexperienced teachers, but this is not the fault of unions and seniority systems, and can be resolved without violating contracts.

  2. With elimination of seniority based layoffs, the American education system will shake off its shackles and we will see the students at Dunbar public High School in Washington, DC match the performance of students at Sidwell Friends, and both will hand-in-hand outperform Shanghai and Finland.

  3. (Judge) “Highberger said he wanted to see evidence in support of the contrasting positions. But UTLA still faces the burden of pushing the judge off his TENTATIVE determination: that the existing seniority rules harm students and, UNDER THIS CIRCUMSTANCE, changes to seniority rules are constitutionally valid under state law.”

    Now that suggests an idea – START with evidence. Then we could mend but not end seniority.

    In that case, circumstances allowed the “reformers” to initially claim the high ground. But what happens if judges across the country demand actual evidence? The use of VAMs to fire teachers will quickly be thrown on the ashpile of failed “reform” history.

    But what will be the legal costs? What will be the opportunity costs?

    You like to spin the “reverberation” across the country, as good. but a legal Battle of Verdun is not good for kids. As much as I’d like to see the data-driven crowd get their rear ends kicked in Court, lets call the battle off. Why do we have to hire lawyers to present evidence. why can’t “reformers” just read it themselves?

  4. This actually seems pretty reasonable. I’m a teacher but I teach in a non-union state (Texas) so some of this seniority stuff is a little outside of my personal experience.

    But it seems pretty reasonable to apply seniority-based layoffs on a school by school basis rather than district-wide for a variety of reasons.

    I’m assuming it is true that the worst (or most difficult schools) do have the highest percentage of new teachers. That’s probably the case in every city in the country. Based on my own experience and all the teachers that I know, I suspect the district’s argument that experienced teachers don’t want to teach at the most difficult schools is more accurate than the union’s argument that the difficult schools don’t want to hire experienced teachers.

    The argument that massive turnover at a school is disruptive is also compelling. I see turnover in my department every year but there is always a solid core of experienced teachers who maintain the equipment, resources, and curriculum from year to year. I can’t imagine starting over in a science department with all new teachers. No one would know what equipment is where, what resources the school has and doesn’t have, and so on.

    Finally I think it is reasonable to give those teachers who commit to teach in the most difficult schools some additional job security which is a lot cheaper than giving them extra pay. In other words, a new teacher applying for jobs at various schools in the district would be faced with this choice: (1) You can take a job at the nice school in the rich neighborhood that is stacked with senior teachers and you will be vulnerable to layoffs, or (2) you can take a job at a more difficult school in a poorer area and much more rapidly become one of the senior teachers in the school and you will be more protected by layoffs (or earn protection from layoffs much faster). It doesn’t have to be just new teachers. All teachers who chose to teach at more difficult schools deserve additional considerations.

    I realize this all violates existing labor contracts. But it still sounds like a more reasonable approach to layoffs than strict seniority on a district-wide basis.

  5. Kent,

    That’s part of my point. There are multiple ways to mend but not end seniority. I always want my union to risks to make compromises, but I also want it to fight VAMs in the hands of managment to the end. Drop the VAM component, or turn VAMs over to peer review committees, and plenty of compromises jump out – and you made good suggestions.

    In fact, using VAMs as with IMPACT should offend all citizens of a constitutional democracy, not just teachers and lawyers. Its collective punishment. Its an artifact of a technocratic, social engineering mentality that makes sense only if you are trying to destroy political enemies.

  6. Still haven’t provided any decent argument for why VAMs in the hands of management is such an evil thing, John. “[It] should offend all citizens of a constitutional democracy”? Really??

    Please also provide your reasoning for why VAM constitutes collective punishment.

    The judge asked for convincing counterarguments to the understanding that “the existing seniority rules harm students and, under this circumstance, changes to seniority rules are constitutionally valid under state law.” I’m rather curious if you (or others) have any to proffer?

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