Hurricane LIFO hits Oakland
Young teachers turned around a poorly-performing elementary school in Oakland, and now they're all at risk of being fired in a LIFO (seniority-based) layoff mandated by state law:
Futures, previously known as Lockwood Elementary, was redesigned in 2007 and a particularly young staff was hired to change the school's old reputation as a place that held low expectations for its low-income and minority students.
The state education code holds no provisions for performance, though. Instead, it dictates that layoffs must be made in order of seniority. Most Futures teachers have been in the classroom for fewer than five years.
?What did we do the redesign for?? asked the school's principal, Steven Daubenspeck.
The union president blames the school's principal. She implies that all teachers are interchangeable widgets, so he should have kept the school's low-performing senior teachers instead of trying to turn the school around using new blood:
The president of the Oakland teachers' union, Betty Olson-Jones, said she feels for the teachers of Futures Elementary and that she plans to visit the school. However, she said, small school leaders ? like those at Futures ? that hired young teachers over older ones when they were redesigned are causing part of the problem. ?When [the division into small schools] happened, many of the teachers who were there and who wanted to be there and were veteran teachers were not invited back,? she said. ?And so, from 2001 through 2008, you saw a lot of veteran teachers moved into other schools.?
I frequently hear the excuse that poor kids can't learn because their parents aren't engaged. What does it say to the parents at this school that when the district experiences a $900 per pupil drop in revenue, their kids, 93 percent of whom are on free lunches, should bear the brunt of the pain? What does that do to the parents' engagement with or trust in their schools?
? Chris Tessone
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About the Editor
Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow
Chris Tessone was a Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow and the Director of Finance of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. He has strong interests in governance and education finance, especially teacher compensation and school facilities finance.
May 16, 2013