Teachers of color most likely to feel brunt of seniority-based layoffs

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Dive Brief:

  • Teachers of color are most likely to take the brunt of seniority-based layoff policies, given that they are more likely than White teachers to be in the early stages of their careers, according to a new report by TNTP, a nonprofit alternative teacher preparation program.
  • Seniority-based policies are permitted in 18 states, while 19 states prohibit seniority from being used as the primary factor, according to TNTP, formerly known as The New Teacher Project. Additionally, eight states require nontenured teachers to be the first to face layoffs, while five states require districts to implement a seniority-based layoff system.
  • As school districts face potential budget cuts tied to declining enrollment, expiring federal pandemic relief funds, and a possible recession, TNTP gauged the impact of statewide seniority-based teacher layoff policies — also known as a “last-in, first-out” strategy — would have on educators of color.

Dive Insight:

Seniority-based policies are the second most common factor used by major districts when looking at teacher layoffs, according to a recent National Council on Teacher Quality analysis of the nation’s 148 largest districts.

Nearly a third, 31%, of those districts said they primarily rely on seniority when determining teacher layoffs, NCTQ found. The top factor — performance — was just slightly higher at a full third.

The TNTP report found that, in 37 of 40 states analyzed, teachers of color are more likely than White teachers to be in their first or second year of teaching.

To shield high-performing teachers, the group recommends states and districts adjust their layoff policies based on local priorities and context. For instance, Nevada state law prioritizes hard-to-staff schools or certain teaching positions like special education or math from facing layoffs.

“States and districts must modify their layoff policies to protect teachers who are making the biggest difference for students, including early-career teachers of color,” the TNTP report said. ”Fortunately, changing layoff policy isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach; several approaches would do a better job than the status quo.”

The report suggests state leaders consider other approaches for rethinking layoff policies, such as leaving seniority-based layoff policies to districts or principals to decide whether or not to use instead of permitting a sweeping statewide implementation. States could replace a seniority-based system with one more closely aligned to student outcomes, or they could rely on multiple factors for layoff decisions. 

If seniority-based layoffs are still in place, districts or states should at least consider one or more additional factors perhaps as an exception to the policy, TNTP said. The report cited a 2021 Oregon law that kept seniority-based layoffs in place, except for teachers with “cultural and linguistic expertise.”  

One major district — Seattle Public Schools — has already begun planning for staff layoffs in the face of sharp enrollment loss, according to The Seattle Times. About 30 staff members in the district’s central office recently received notices they might be laid off next school year. Additionally, 38 more employees working in school buildings could face layoffs as the district projects a budget drop of about $131 million in the 2023-24 school year, The Seattle Times reported.

This article originally appeared in www.k12dive.com

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