Last hired, first fired. Sorry if you’re doing a good job.

When the financial situation of a school district collapses, who gets laid off? The most recently hired teachers.

The Wall Street Journal reports on this fact today,

Union officials object,  and defend the seniority system as a way to avoid the problems of bias and subjectivity in terminations. It is, but at what cost? The New Teacher Project and the National Council for Teacher Quality have both done some good work in pointing out the problems with the personnel policies that dominate schools today.

And when I read of the problems of bias, I think, “welcome to the rest of the world. Deal with it.”

The Journal quotes one union official who says that the head of the New York City school system wants a lot of cheaper teachers on the payroll, and get rid of teachers who, by virtue of being higher on the seniority scale, cost more.  But if terminations are limited to newer teachers who are paid less, wouldn’t that do more to increase class size than getting rid of a handful of highly paid but ineffective teachers? And I thought that the union was in favor of smaller classes.

One parent concisely sums up the problem with seniority rules: “Why is my great teacher being laid off while this teacher, who everybody knows is not a good teacher, doesn’t get laid off?”

The head of a union in Seattle raises another objection: “”We don’t want to go back to the ’50s or ’60s, when people were laid off because of the color of their skin or because a woman was pregnant.” No we don’t. But then again, we have other laws against such practices.

Finally, here’s some encouraging words from the story:

For the unions, the pushback is in some cases coming from people who consider themselves liberal and pro-union. “I consider myself a union supporter, but I don’t support the seniority system,” said Lynnell Mickelsen of Minneapolis, who is organizing a community group to oppose the main use of seniority in layoffs.

May their umbers increase.

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