Which teachers will be the first to go as schools shrink?

Which teachers will be the first to go as schools shrink?

Falling birth rates will cut school attendance in the coming years, but just 18 states require that competence be considered when laying off teachers. That means union-crafted seniority rules will drive the process in most districts, further compromising the quality of public education.

“Our national enrollment of elementary school students will be down about 9 percent,” projected Michael Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute in New York City.

Fourteen states posted declining birthrates of 10% or more between 2007 and 2013 (the latest year for which comparisons were available). According to Fordham:

  1. Mississippi: down 16.9%
  2. Arizona: down 16.9%
  3. Nevada: down 14.9%
  4. Georgia: down 14.8%
  5. New Mexico: down 13.9%
  6. Connecticut: down 13.4%
  7. Illinois: down 13.2%
  8. Rhode Island: down 12.7%
  9. California: down 12.7%
  10. New Hampshire: down 12.5%
  11. New Jersey: down 11.6%
  12. Delaware: down 11%
  13. Idaho: down 10.5%
  14. Alabama: down 10.2%

Only three of those states — Georgia, Illinois and Rhode Island — consider on-the-job performance when deciding which teachers to keep, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality.

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“It’s more important than ever to make sure that RIFs (reductions in force) are done in a fair way — taking into account not just seniority, but also effectiveness,” Petrilli said.

But the three states expecting the biggest enrollment drops — Mississippi, Arizona, and Nevada — can RIF instructors without regard to performance. So can the nation’s most populous state, California, which is also experiencing a steady drop in birthrates.

Most states rely on a seniority-based system, which dictates the last teachers hired are the first fired — irrespective of their competence in the classroom. Unions prefer this last-in/first-out formula, but Petrilli said quality-conscious state policymakers and local school boards should reconsider.

“If you don’t want lots of your young, energetic elementary teachers getting pink slips, time is quickly running out,” he said.

Read more by Kenric Ward at Watchdog.com.


Kenric Ward

Kenric Ward

Kenric Ward is a national correspondent and writes for the Texas Bureau of Watchdog.org. Formerly a reporter and editor at two Pulitzer Prize-winning newspapers, Kenric has won dozens of state and national news awards for investigative articles. His most recent book is “Saints in Babylon: Mormons and Las Vegas.”


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