Fridley's state senators butted heads Monday on a bill to change the way school districts decide which teachers go during layoffs. Under the bill, teachers' overall experience and their effectiveness would matter more than their length of service in a particular district in determining who stays on.
Currently, if there's a layoff, teachers are laid off in the order in which they were hired. Hence the term "LIFO" [Last In First Out]. Those who were last in are the first to be laid off. And this is regardless of the amount of experience that a teacher has or the effectiveness that they have in the classroom.
Sometimes we confuse seniority with experience, and they are not the same. Experience has to do with how long a teacher has taught. Seniority has to do with how long a teacher has taught in a particular school district. They are not the same.
What this bill would do is it would change the order of layoff, so that when a layoff occurs, teachers would be laid off first, based on licensure; second, based on effectiveness; and third, based on seniority.
What this bill is not: This bill is not a bill to find and remove ineffective teachers. This bill is strictly dealing with layoffs. In the event of a layoff, teachers would be laid off based on their effectiveness. That would have priority over how long they have taught in that school district.
Given there are layoffs, it is the most important thing that we can do to focus on, that as teachers are laid off that we say the least effective teacher is laid off first, preserving the opportunity for the most effective teachers to be in fact in front of our precious children, our students.
Sen. Barb Goodwin (DFL-50) spoke against Wolf's bill. According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press:
"This is just another attack on collective bargaining rights," said Sen. Barb Goodwin, DFL-Columbia Heights.
Minnesota still is trying to work out the details of a new teacher evaluation law, which was passed by lawmakers last year and takes effect for the 2016-17 school year. Goodwin said it's going to be an arduous task.
Some teachers have bigger class sizes, she said. Some have more immigrant students who can't speak English. And, Goodwin wondered, how do you come up with a system that can judge a math teacher and a band instructor?
"I think the group is going to have a difficult time coming up with a fair system of evaluations," Goodwin said.
The Star Tribune also noted Goodwin's objections:
"This is very premature," said Sen. Barb Goodwin, DFL-Columbia Heights, who said she doubts anyone can create a system that fairly evaluates math teachers, band teachers, urban educators with classrooms of 40 and rural teachers with only a handful of students.
Redistricting created a new Senate District 41 that includes all of Fridley—and Goodwin's Columbia Heights home. Wolf's home in Spring Lake Park is just outside that district in a new District 42.