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my new column at NJ Spotlight: what happens when a state like NJ eschews an safe, incrementalist approach to education reform in favor of grand transformation? I use LIFO (last in, first out) as a barometer of a state’s strategy and, well, read it.

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  • kallikak, April 11, 2011 @ 4:43 pm Reply

    You wrote:

    “When local districts have to lay off teachers or other tenured staff due to budget cuts or shrinking enrollment, LIFO dictates that they must disregard teacher quality and eliminate staff members in the order of seniority.”

    LIFO also means that districts must disregard and cannot benefit from the very significant “breakage”–approximating $50K per teacher per year in North Jersey towns–available when senior, highly-paid teachers are replaced with recent college grads.

    If we had complete freedom in this regard, many districts could sharply reduce their funding problems overnight.

    You can argue that anti-age discrimination laws will protect veteran teachers, but I must disagree.

    Your so-called “reform” movement is all about the money–at least to the money-men behind it–and the LIFO argument is largely a Trojan Horse to suppress teachers' pay.

  • NJ Left Behind, April 11, 2011 @ 5:28 pm Reply

    I understand your concerns about breakage. As a board member, I'll tell you that school districts are fiercely protective of effective teachers, regardless of their salaries.

    Re: the reform movement being all about money, I can't speak for everyone. But the people who I know are really in it for the kids. Of course money is an issue, but it's more about using it effectively.

  • kallikak, April 11, 2011 @ 6:37 pm Reply

    How fiercely protective will they be when a Governor who describes one of the wealthiest states in the country as “broke” systematically de-funds schools to the point where desperate measures are commonplace?

    With all due respect, you need to meet more of the “deep pockets” behind the reform movement. They tend to calibrate everything in terms of money.

    We can do better.

  • A. Gad Fly, April 11, 2011 @ 7:56 pm Reply

    Dabblers in education show our true motivation in this discussion without realizing it.

    Why do we seem to bemoan LIFO most in the context of layoffs? The answer should be obvious. It's about the money.

    If we have effective management that assures quality staffing, then LIFO is not an issue when it comes time to (involuntarily) trim budgets. We can't precisely measure teacher quality with metrics and mechanisms available to us today. Yet you propose discarding the benefits of LIFO, so that we can subject dedicated staff to being hung out to twist in the wind of the political storm during each economic slump. This is supposed to increase staffing quality?

    We should be concentrating on how to avoid layoffs, not squabbling over how to determine who should get the axe when leaders have failed to plan for long-term funding. This is precisely the time that we need LIFO more than ever. If we are truly interested in improving staffing, the focus could be tenure reform, but it should have nothing to do with LIFO.

    The time to remove ineffective teachers should be when we are flush and our motives are pure. You cannot remove politics from the equation. When leadership has screwed up and layoffs are forced, committed staff needs protection because human nature has not changed since the “industrial era”, a term that you inexplicably use to deride LIFO. Are you seriously suggesting that cronyism only manifests as nepotism? Do you really believe laws prohibiting age-discrimination are effective?

    Thousands of teachers made a commitment to a career based in part by a promise of security given them by government – which is to say a promise incumbent on us all to honor. That's what LIFO embodies. If you want to continue to attract talent while containing cost, not to mention behaving honorably for its own sake, then LIFO is part of the bargain.

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