LIFO keeps N.J. from true teacher tenure reform

Laura Waters:

Public school calendars may be winding down, but education rhetoric is heating up after a startling ruling last week in Los Angeles that, some pundits say, has national implications. In a case called Vergara v. California, nine Los Angeles public school students argued in County Superior Court that state tenure laws, which require schools to lay off teachers in order of seniority, had violated their constitutional rights by depriving them of effective teachers. Judge Rolf Treu ruled that the students were right.

But New Jerseyans who deplore seniority-based job security, also known as LIFO or “last in, first out,” shouldn’t get ahead of themselves. The Vergara ruling is important and will continue to inform discussions about improving America’s teacher quality and educational equity. But Los Angeles’ tenure laws are so far off the bell curve that they’re hardly a test case for the rest of the nation, even in the 11 states in the country that still adhere to the practice of seniority-based lay-offs.

But don’t underestimate the power of Judge Treu’s declaration that “evidence has been elicited in this trial of the specific effect of grossly ineffective teachers on students. The evidence is compelling. Indeed it shocks the conscience.”