L.A. layoffs

When layoffs come to L.A. schools, performance doesn't count, by Jason Felch, Jason Song, and Doug Smith, Los Angeles Times, December 4, 2010.

The L.A. Times’s muckrakers offered up another doozey this week—now targeting the practice of last hired, first fired. In L.A., hundreds of promising new instructors were forced out by the one-two punch of budget cuts and seniority protections. According to the Times, 190 of them ranked in the top fifth in raising scores. Four hundred ranked in the top 40 percent. Not only did this quality-blind policy cause LAUSD to evict some of its most promising talent, but it also disproportionately forced out teachers in poorer areas of the district, who are often younger and less experienced. At Liechty Middle School in Westlake, for example, more than half of the teaching staff was initially let go. (Some were later hired back, but in the end, about a quarter of the school’s teachers lost their jobs.) Lietchy wasn’t alone on this. The Times analysis shows that sixteen schools lost at least a quarter of their teachers, all but one of them in South or Central Los Angeles. Further extrapolating, the Times also finds that far fewer teachers would have lost their jobs if the district had based its firings on performance instead of years in the classroom. (Veteran teachers have higher salaries, irrespective of their contributions to the classroom. So, fewer would have to be let-go to reach the budget quota.) Luckily, seniority-based layoffs in L.A. took a hit of its own recently. Championed by the ACLU, a court agreement now limits seniority-based protections in firing by capping the number of teachers who can be dismissed at each school.