Maintain Teacher Seniority
March 4, 2011
By Stephanie Barlie & Kayty Himmelstein
Currently, New York State's seniority rule protects experienced teachers from layoffs, a policy sometimes known as "last in, first out." In recent budget negotiations, Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Black have pressured Governor Cuomo to overturn this rule.
Senior teachers offer us their advice, their formal mentorship, and their connections with communities. Without more senior teachers, we would lose our bridge to lessons learned through years of dedicated work in the school system. These teachers provide guidance for younger teachers of all backgrounds, and play an important role in the lives of our students.
We also believe that Bloomberg and Black’s so-called “merit-based” system for retaining teachers will foster competitive, fearful school cultures that are detrimental both to teachers' professional development and to student learning. In addition, Bloomberg and Black seek to measure teacher performance by student test scores, an imperfect measure at best, and one that encourages narrowly test-focused curricula.
Finally, Bloomberg and Black's arguments against the seniority rule are based on the fact that newer teachers work for lower salaries than our more experienced peers; allowing experienced teachers to be laid off would therefore reduce the total number of necessary layoffs. This argument, however, fails to account for the true cost of professional development and adequate support for newer teachers. It also ignores the fact that teacher experience is one of the most reliable predictors of student learning.
If student achievement is the priority, then experienced teachers are more than worth their cost. Education is an investment in our future, and cuts to education are ultimately short-sighted. We reject political tactics that raise the specter of massive teacher layoffs in efforts to divide the workforce and pit parents against teachers. In the interest of our students, we stand with senior teachers in supporting the seniority rule.