Seniority-Based Layoffs will Exacerbate Job Loss in Public Education

Suzannah Herrmann, Ph.D.

Marguerite Roza
Center on Reinventing Public Education
February 2009

State and local officials are starting to cut education dollars to get their budgets out of the red. Hiring freezes, retirement incentives, and trimming non-personnel expenditures are all ways to cut. Yet, another popular approach has been seniority-based layoffs. Seniority-based layoffs eliminate jobs across different classifications (such as teachers, aides, and custodians) for the most recently hired personnel, regardless of performance. Is "last hired, first fired" the best way to address budget woes? Probably not, according to the rapid response analysis conducted by the Center on Reinventing Public Education. This concise and easy-to-read analysis assumes that recent hires make less money, so more recent hires need to be fired to make up for budget gaps. The result is that more school personnel are fired than needed. If cuts were made without considering seniority (meaning firing people across the pay scale spectrum), then there would need to be fewer cuts to make up for budget gaps. The analysis estimates, stunningly, that there are over 260,000 extra layoffs nationally than necessary because of seniority-based policies. And, of course, none of these dismissals are based on the performance of teachers, and so many let go may actually be some of the best instructors. Performance, or lack there of, should drive who stays and who goes, but last hired, first fired prevents this from happening. To read more details, see here.