Good teachers are an incredibly important variable in student success. Last year, a Harvard researcher found that students taught by an incompetent teacher lose more than nine months of learning in a single year. Yet just like California, New Jersey still has a law in place that — in times of layoffs — requires a school to fire a talented teacher whom everyone agrees is superior, simply because that person has less seniority.
How is that consistent with the constitutional guarantee of a quality education?
New Jersey reformed its teacher tenure laws two years ago, but didn’t touch the practice known as “last in, first out,” which protects absolute seniority rights in times of layoffs. That’s where the teachers’ union drew a red line.
This means that schools facing layoffs in the next few years will be forced to purge younger teachers — even the most gifted and hardworking ones. The main victims of this policy are poor kids. Teacher quality is much more meaningful for them, because they don’t come pre-loaded for success.
Why should a state statute protected by the union be allowed to trump children’s constitutional right to a quality education?
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