By Benjamin Feinberg
Teachers unions often argue that the “last in, first out” policy is the only fair way to lay off teachers. Reformers say that LIFO protects bad teachers while indiscriminately getting rid of young and creative new teachers.
The way we lay off teachers will become more important as Los Angeles Unified School District enters yet another budget crisis.
Let’s ignore the policy argument for a moment and instead focus on LIFO’s effect. Ironically, this policy supported by teachers unions ends up benefiting charter schools.
To get a good understanding of LIFO’s impact, we should look back to 2009, when LAUSD laid off 1,806 teachers.
THE YEAR I WAS LAID OFF
This happens to be a very personal subject for me because I was laid off that year.
I started my teaching career in 2008. Three weeks after the first day of school, Lehman Brothers collapsed, and the economy went into a tailspin. At first, this didn’t really hit the teaching sector hard, but by February it became clear that layoffs were coming. And then, on May 15, 2009, 5,618 LAUSD teachers received layoff notices.
Many of those layoffs were rescinded, and those whose notices were not rescinded were told that we could sub for ourselves and stay at our schools. But from a more personal perspective, getting a layoff notice makes you panic.
That is exactly what I did. I. Freaked. Out.
As a relatively risk-averse person, I chose to apply for a new teaching job.
And who was hiring?
Charter schools. Oodles and oodles of charter schools.
I was hired at Aspire Public Schools, one of the fastest-growing charter networks in Los Angeles. My girlfriend was hired at Partnership to Uplift Communities (PUC Schools). My friends got jobs at Green Dot, Synergy, Para Los Niños, Inner City Education Foundation Public Schools (ICEF), the list goes on.
In fact, of my Teach For America (TFA) cohort who received layoff notices that year, only 21 percent were rescinded, 18 percent decided to sub for themselves, and 57 percent headed to charter schools. LIFO took a bunch of young, excited teachers who already had a year of experience under their belts and pushed them into charter schools.