Union Bigwigs Make Sure Public School Layoffs Are ‘Quality-Blind’
In recent years, forced dues-funded teacher union lobbyists and union negotiators played a major role in convincing public officials to increase the number of instructional employees at K-12 public schools at a blistering clip.
Nationwide, the number of K-12 public school instructional employees (full-time equivalent) grew roughly 3.5 times as much as the number of school-aged children (15.9% vs. 4.5%) from 1998 to 2007.
Since an estimated 65% of U.S. public schoolteachers are under union monopoly bargaining, and more than 40% are forced to pay union dues or fees as a job condition, K-12 employment growth that far outpaces the growth of America’s five to 17-year-old population represents a huge windfall for Big Labor.
However, in the wake of the severe 2008-2009 recession, many strapped states now have no choice but to pare back a small portion of the K-12 instructional staff increases of the previous decade.
Hoosier Teachers Recognized For ‘Outstanding Service,’ Then Laid Off
When school officials have the power to restrict layoffs to employees they have identified as the least effective, then occasional recession-related reductions in force of 5–10% are not necessarily detrimental to student achievement, according to education experts like Stanford University’s Eric Hanushek.
In fact, according to Dr. Hanushek, in such cases the advantages to schoolchildren of the removal of the least effective staff probably far outweigh any harm caused by the rise in the number of schoolchildren per teacher.
Unfortunately, in school districts attended by the vast majority of U.S. K-12 children, school officials lack the authority to lay off their worst performers while keeping their best ones. Instead, teacher union officials wield their government-granted monopoly-bargaining power to ensure that layoffs are based on seniority alone.
To the dismay of schoolchildren, parents, and taxpayers, this spring, in school district after school district and state after state, teachers widely recognized as superior are being laid off, while below-average teachers are keeping their jobs, simply because the latter have more seniority.
For example, last month in Indiana, six teachers (out of roughly 60,000) were recognized by the state superintendent of education for “outstanding service to Hoosier students.”
Two of the six, Tippecanoe French teacher Gaylene Hayden and English teacher Jackie Macal, are being laid off at the end of the school year because of their lack of seniority.
When asked to comment, Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA/NEA) union Vice President Teresa Meredith admitted the losses of two of the very best teachers in the state, plus many other outstanding ones, were “disappointing,” but dismissed the need for any reform of seniority rules.
System Makes Teachers ‘Dependent on The Union’
“It’s no mystery why teacher union bosses love the seniority system,” commented National Right to Work Committee President Mark Mix.
“It makes teachers dependent on the union, not their personal knowledge, efforts and accomplishments, to obtain job security and substantial pay increases over time. That makes the union more powerful.
“Too bad for recently hired, talented teachers . . . not to mention students and their parents.”
This year, disgruntled parents and taxpayers and independent educational groups, such as the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based New Teacher Project (NTP), around the country are mobilizing against what NTP President Tim Daly aptly calls “quality-blind” layoffs.
Mr. Mix commended such efforts.
“Reforming state labor laws to restrict the scope of teacher union bosses’ monopoly-bargaining privileges so that they could not prevent school officials from laying off the least effective staff, rather than teachers with the least seniority, would be a step in the right direction,” he said.
“However, seniority rules that hurt schoolchildren, taxpayers, and many good teachers are just one of a wide array of harmful policies teacher union bosses are able to perpetuate, despite growing public opposition, because of their monopoly-bargaining control over educators.
“Major reform of public education, therefore, will require state and local policymakers to eliminate teacher union officials’ monopoly privileges, not just restrict their scope.
“That’s why the National Right to Work Committee will continue pushing harder and harder for flat-out repeal of state public-sector monopoly-bargaining laws.”