Even if the Keep Our Educators Working Act, introduced three weeks ago by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), passes, it's likely that at least some of the teacher layoffs threatened in public school systems across the country are going to happen. The proposed $23 million stimulus is intended, as Harkin said, as "an investment in our kids," but the nonprofit organization The New Teacher Project, claims there are ways to make that money go as far as possible.
The problem they're trying to address, as put by Newsweek's Jonathan Alter, is the "'last hired, first fired'" system that districts use to cull their workforce. The result: newer, promising (and often successful) teachers get the axe; whereas some checked out, older colleagues are retained. The New Teacher Project suggests only allowing funds to go to states that promise to take considerations other than seniority into account when deciding how to trim their workforce.
In a statement issued yesterday:
Seniority-based layoffs fall short as a fiscal solution as well; because the newest teachers earn the lowest salaries, limiting layoffs exclusively to novice teachers means more teachers must be cut to achieve the same budget reduction goal. And as we showed in a report last month, teachers themselves overwhelmingly reject these rules. When we asked 9,000 teachers in two large urban districts for their opinion, nearly 3 in 4 said that factors other than seniority should be considered in layoff decisions.
It's unlikely the teachers' unions will support this condition. But, if they don't, can they really still argue that they're not hurting students? As Alter notes, The New Teacher Project is only hoping to make seniority be one of a set of standards and not the only one.