State Sen. Bob Huff recently introduced a bill that would enable California school districts to base teacher layoffs on performance rather than seniority.
Huff, R-Diamond Bar, said that Senate Bill 355 is part of a nationwide school reform effort and that the “Last in, First Out” hiring policy currently in place unfairly judges teachers strictly on their “place in line.” He said the bill has supporters on both sides of the aisle.
Besides changing the criteria for laying off teachers, the law would mandate that school districts come up with an evaluation system for teachers and principals that is partially based on how well students are doing academically.
“Everyone has a story about a favorite teacher that inspired a hunger to learn like a spark ignites a fire,” Huff said in a press release. “It’s in the State Legislature’s best interest to give school districts the flexibility they need to retain the teachers that best serve students.”
The California Teachers Association is opposed to the proposed legislation. Frank Wells, a spokesman for the 325,000-member organization, said the law would take an objective method to determine who gets laid off and replace it with something almost completely arbitrary.
“Layoffs are done for budgetary reasons,” Wells said. “If a teacher isn't performing up to acceptable standards, that problem should have been addressed prior to the sad convenience of a financial crisis.”
Wells said if a district had 1,000 teachers and needed to layoff 300, a fair method to pick the 700 best would be hard to find.
“What would stop a district from laying off its veteran higher paid teachers as a cost-savings measure?”
Huff, who represents the 29th District which includes Glendora, said the current policy shields some teachers who are incompetent but protected because they have more years invested than many of their counterparts.
“You won’t find the luxury of seniority protection in the private sector and we shouldn’t apply such an ineffective policy to an important profession like teaching,” he said. “This is a policy that hurts children since they should be given the opportunity to study with the best teacher possible.”
The bill is before the state Assembly’s Committee on Education at this time and no set time has been designated for legislators to vote on the proposal.
However, Huff is meeting with educators in his district regarding the bill.
Glendora Unified School District approved the elimination of about 30 teaching positions Monday in response to a possible $2.5 million shortfall.
The teachers with the least seniority in subjects including English, math, music, physical education, AVID, reading and/or math intervention, social sciences and adult education will be laid off by the end of the year.