Matthew Frankel, via a kind email:
In Latest Court Filing, Newark Public School District and Superintendent Christopher Cerf Concede “Last In, First Out” Teacher Layoff Law Hurts Students
Trenton, New Jersey — The Newark Public School (NPS) district and NPS Superintendent Christopher Cerf, defendants in HG v. Harrington, yesterday submitted an answer to the lawsuit filed in November 2016 by six Newark mothers challenging the constitutionality of New Jersey’s quality-blind “last in, first out” (LIFO) teacher layoff law. Newark’s answer includes admissions that overwhelmingly concede the allegations put forward by the plaintiffs. This filing is significant for two reasons: 1) the district admits that New Jersey’s LIFO law causes harm to students and 2) these admissions undermine the credibility of motions to dismiss the lawsuit filed by the teachers’ unions, who intervened as defendants in the case in December 2016.
Newark’s court filing is attached to this email. In the filing, the district defends strides it has made to better serve students, and also makes the following selected admissions:
NPS admits that laying off teachers without any consideration of their quality prohibits children from being educated in the constitutionally mandated manner (paragraph 14)
NPS admits that enforcement of LIFO in Newark will remove quality teachers, which leads to lower test scores, lower high school grad rates, lower college attendance rates, and sharply reduced lifetime earnings (paragraph 104)
NPS admits that its current practice of keeping ineffective teachers on the district payroll, including those in a pool of “educators without placement schools” (EWPS), is harmful and unsustainable (paragraphs 80-81) and that the EWPS pool would be wholly unnecessary were it not for LIFO (paragraph 89)
NPS admits that LIFO undermines its ability to attract and retain effective teachers (paragraphs 96-103)
NPS notes that the statutes governing termination proceedings for tenured teachers do not address the impact of quality-blind layoffs on students through the retention of low-performing teachers in times of budget cuts (paragraph 93)
In response to Newark’s answer, Partnership for Educational Justice Executive Director Ralia Polechronis said:
“Instead of battling over procedural issues, NPS has taken a stand in favor of students’ best interests. The district admits that NJ’s LIFO law ‘protects the interests of adults over the rights of the children of Newark’ and forces the district into an impossible dilemma: either divert increasingly limited resources to avoid layoffs or deny high-performing teachers to 8,000 students per year. These admissions are a giant step forward for the HG plaintiffs to prove their constitutional claims in a court of law.”
This is the first case of its kind in which all original defendants submitted an answer to the lawsuit, rather than moving to dismiss the case, signaling that these cases can and should be heard by a court of law. Earlier this month, the New Jersey Department of Education and New Jersey’s Acting Education Commissioner Kimberly Harrington submitted an answer to the parents’ complaint. All legal filings related to HG v. Harrington are available online here, including the answers filed by Newark and the State, and motions to dismiss the case filed by national and local teachers’ unions.
Click to download the plaintiffs’ complaint [PDF].
To learn more about the parent-led lawsuit to end LIFO in New Jersey, please go to edjustice.org/nj.
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