It’s no secret that the existing rules for assigning teachers to public school classrooms in California are harming our students. The “Last In, First Out” (LIFO) policy is a quality-blind approach to classroom staffing that prioritizes teachers’ dates of hire over everything else, including their ability to teach. These LIFO policies literally block schools from making sure every classroom has the best teacher possible. Research shows that the students who live in our poorest inner city neighborhoods are the students who suffer the most.
It’s not just our existing classrooms that are getting hurt. LIFO policies will also hurt one of the biggest education reform efforts currently underway in California: the Linked Learning and Career Pathway programs.
Up and down the state, more and more school districts are offering Linked Learning and Career Pathway programs. These are designed to combine strong academics with hands-on learning, in order to better prepare students for real-world jobs. For example, a Linked Learning program for jobs in the health care industry needs teachers who can blend classroom lessons with practical and essential job skills such as laboratory work and patient care. It has been said that pathways programs make education “relevant” for pupils, keeping them interested and engaged. Part of this relevancy comes from teachers who know the subject.
But with LIFO, there’s no way Linked Learning and Career Pathway programs will prosper, because teachers with the most time on the job get to pick their classroom assignments first, leaving what’s left over for the new teachers. A new teacher with exactly the right skills and experience to make a Linked Learning program a success in his or her skill will end up getting passed over to satisfy a less qualified teacher who’s simply been around longer.
The solution to this problem is simple: let’s protect our most qualified teachers. I’ve introduced Senate Bill 1185 to allow school districts to protect Career Pathway instructors from quality-blind, LIFO layoffs. This bill will create a sanctuary, protecting teachers and students who are prospering in a Linked Learning classroom from having their studies broken up by outdated work rules. Setting up protections from seniority-based rules gives students and teachers more security and saves school districts money at the same time. SB 1185 will be heard tomorrow in the Senate Education Committee and it remains to be seen whether or not special interests will allow for an honest dialogue. Don’t hold your breath, though.
We all know that teachers are so important to delivering a quality education for our kids. That’s why it is vital that the Legislature provide school districts with the tools to recruit and retain teachers with the unique knowledge and skills to most effectively teach in a pathways program.