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Sen. Pam Wolf: 'Cruel Irony' in Her Dismissal as Teacher after Bid to End 'LIFO' Teacher Layoffs

But she said her bill wouldn't have helped 29 teachers let go at Pines School.

Updated below. State Sen. Pam Wolf (R-51) said Tuesday she felt "frustration" and saw "cruel irony" in after she shepherded a bill changing teacher-layoff rules through the Minnesota Legislature this year.

Wolf, who represents part of Fridley and Spring Lake Park at the State Capitol, also was a teacher at Pines School at the Lino Lakes juvenile detention facility. She and 28 other teachers lost their jobs when the school shifted from Anoka County control to the Centennial School District.

that would have put an end to seniority determining which teachers districts lay off—the so-called "last-in-first out" or LIFO rule that unions support.

The bill passed the Minnesota Legislature but , who called it "yet another example of this prejudice against public school teachers."

But even if Dayton had signed the bill, it wouldn't have helped Wolf and her 28 colleagues, she said. The legislation would have added experience and effectiveness as factors in determining which teachers keep their positions when districts cut jobs. But Pines School carried out unusual, wholesale layoffs in the shift from county to district control, leaving all the teachers in the cold, Wolf said.

Update: $18,000 Hit
The layoffs didn't come out of the blue, Wolf said. "We were hearing rumors for years," she said. The decision to switch to Centennial School District came late last year, she said, and staff got letters about it in February—around the time Wolf was introducing her bill on the Senate floor (see video).

Laid-off Pines School teachers who get new teaching jobs in the fall will start at new districts with the effective status of first-year teachers, Wolf said.

They can also re-apply for their old positions, the Star Tribune reported Tuesday, but Wolf said they would have lower dibs on the jobs than teachers already in the Centennial district.

She predicted her own annual income will take an $18,000 hit and she'll be laid off again next year.

Probation periods are one year for experienced teachers and three years for new teachers, she said, but districts have a disincentive to retain experienced beyond their first year.

"I guarantee I will be let go next spring," she said—because districts are very careful about keeping a teacher long enough for her or him to achieve tenured status.

That's why she wants to have teachers' years of experience in the classroom count more than seniority under a particular district's contract when it comes to layoff decisions, she said: "Seniority stinks as a factor (in layoff decisions)."

Wolf said if she wins re-election in November, she may retool her bill with only  experience as an added factor to see if that could get Dayton's signature.

Editor's note: I made changes to this post at 2:45 p.m. Wednesday in response to comments below—including the teachers' option to re-apply and clarifying the probation rules for teachers in new districts.

DanW52 June 13, 2012 at 12:34 PM
Per the StarTribune article from yesterday, Pam can reapply for her job.
Ann Landon June 13, 2012 at 05:46 PM
"Cruel irony"? She knew she was going to be laid off, so she brought a bill to end seniority. This is less ironic than a conflict of interest.
Ann Landon June 13, 2012 at 07:09 PM
Wolf is wrong about the probationary status of teachers who move districts - if you have reached continuing contract status in a district, you only need to serve one year of probation in your new district, not three like a new teacher. You only start over with three years of probation if there is a gap in your first years of teaching. That's state law. Also, virtually all districts let you count at least some experience in your initial placement on the salary schedule.
Ann Landon June 13, 2012 at 07:14 PM
And one more thing - Wolf is currently considered a part time employee by the county, so she has to pay a larger percentage of her health insurance than she would in a school district. The county also pays these teachers significantly below what they'd make in other districts in salary, so I'd like to see some proof that she'll take the financial hit she suggests.
Chris Steller (Editor) June 13, 2012 at 07:42 PM
Good point, DanW52. I did include that in the earlier post here but I'll add it here too. Ann Landon, I am probably at fault for not wording that part well. Sen. Wolf did explain that difference to me (one vs. three-year probationary periods), but she said the net effect was the same, since she expects any district that hires her (or others in her situation) would also let them go after one year.
Ann Landon June 14, 2012 at 02:30 PM
She seems to have little trust that principals will make their decisions based on quality over institutional interests for probationary teachers, where they have carte blanche to decide layoffs any way they want. Yet she seems to think principals will be fair if you extend that situation to tenured teachers too? Her point about being laid off after a year seems to make the point about why seniority is important.
Ms. Hord October 07, 2012 at 03:38 PM
Isn't years of experience the same as seniority ? If you have 5 years of experience in a district you have been there longer. Even in non- teaching jobs there is a seniority system, and no job is going to hire you at the same amount some may get a bump and others loose some. Did anyone look in to the fact that Anoka County is anti union and when the teacher formed a union the county began talks to have Cenmtenial take over. If you looked at the books you would find that the school for all practical purposes was a zero cost to the County. In fact the schools revenue paid for supplies and other items shared by the whole facility. It's more complicated than Pam Wolf's agenda considering that she is just as anti union as the good ole boys in Anoka County.
Mark Lumley April 20, 2013 at 01:17 AM
As to Pam being anti- union, you can't blame her. Did EDMN help save the teacher's positions or ensure they could be simply moved into the Centennial district? The answer is NO! And why was that! It's a simple matter of money. 28-29 teachers in the Pines School , not a very lucrative union compared to Centennial now was it. Also why be in favor of unions when those who strong armed other teachers into voting to form a union were for the most part all gone when the county had enough "union" hassle and decided to just let someone else deal with the headache. The teachers had a much better compensation package prior to unionizing, so again why would Pam be pro union. There is always more to a story than most people are aware of I would think "educators" would realize that. I have been a teacher and school board member and gave witnessed much blindness from so called educated people because of union favoritism.

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