Last In, First Out

The seniority-based layoff or “Last-In, First-Out” (“LIFO”) statute forces administrators to let go of passionate and motivating newer teachers and keep ineffective teachers instead, just because they have seniority.

Experience is important in any profession, but it’s common sense that experience alone does not guarantee effectiveness. Our education system should reward and encourage passion, hard work and results. We should not be firing our best young teachers and “Teachers of the Year” simply because less effective teachers were given tenure. Teachers, just like other professionals, want their work to be respected and valued. Vergara v. California will create an opportunity to design a new teaching career based on hard work, passion and results, instead of one that protects seniority at all costs.

Facts from trial:

  • According to the testimony of Dr. Raj Chetty, per teacher laid off, students would gain $2.1 million in lifetime earnings if California used effectiveness-based layoffs instead of seniority-based layoffs.
  • Number of states in the U.S. that prohibit seniority from being the primary criterion considered in layoff decisions: 20 (Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington)

Quotes from trial:


  • “Because I take it as a given that layoffs are occurring, and so one has to devise a method by which to decide which teachers actually get laid off. And so, the right question is not how effective are the teachers that are laid off versus the workforce as a whole. The right question is how effective are the teachers laid off under one criterion versus a different criterion. And, to my mind, if your interest is in promoting student achievement, then laying off teachers based on a seniority criterion that doesn’t consider quality doesn’t make a lot of sense.” – Dr. Daniel Goldhaber, Director, Center for Education Data and Research and Professor, University of Washington, Bothell
  • “[R]everse seniority layoffs exacerbate a terrible situation” because they “result[]in teachers being bumped…[O]ften your least effective teachers [are] placed in your highest poverty schools, while other teachers who wanted to be there, wanted to teach there, and were producing great gains there [are] removed from those schools.” – Dr. Arun Ramanathan, Former Executive Director, The Education Trust-West
  • “It is my opinion that California law compares to other states in ways that are not as strong for students as what we see regarding teacher layoffs.” – Sandi Jacobs, Vice President and Managing Director of State Policy, National Council on Teacher Quality


  • “…A system that treats its best teachers this way and a system that ultimately doesn’t serve children and its families like they’re supposed to, in my humble opinion, is broken.” – Jonathan Raymond, Former Superintendent, Sacramento City Unified School District


  • “[O]ver time as I became more involved in the school community, and…was teaching for more years I just felt like no matter what work I did in the classroom or how hard I worked that none of it mattered because a seniority date mattered way more than how much I did for kids, or what principals would say about me, or what parents would say about me. And, my love for it…None of it, none of it mattered…All that mattered was my hire date. And, after that happening for that many years…you just think…I’m not even a person…It’s just my hire date that matters. I’m a number and not a person, and that’s not easy.” Bhavini Bhakta, Instructional Coach and Former Teacher, Arcadia Unified School District
  • “I felt undervalued. As I said earlier, I stayed long hours, I was extremely committed to my students, I loved my students, I was a leader on campus and none of this mattered. The district wasn’t excited about me as much as I was excited about my students and remaining a teacher.”  – Jonathan Moss, Former Teacher, Compton Unified School District
  • “Time spent as a teacher doesn’t make you an effective teacher, its what you do with that time…[It is a] constant process of innovating, evaluating, growing” – Maggie Pulley, Teacher, Los Angeles Unified School District
  • “I became a teacher because I wanted to teach. I wanted to impact my students. I knew that I was becoming a teacher because my students needed me. It had nothing to do with job protection. It was because I wanted to provide a service to those that I had felt…didn’t have opportunities that I had growing up.” – Jonathan Moss


  • According to the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research, a project of the Urban Institute and seven premiere universities, there is no reliable correlation between teacher seniority and teacher effectiveness. Read more.
  • According to The New Teacher Project, only 13 to 16 percent of the teachers laid off in a seniority-based system would also be cut under a system based on teacher effectiveness. Read more.
  • A report from the Center on Reinventing Public Education found that seniority-based layoffs not only “exacerbate the number of people that lose their jobs,” but also disproportionately impact poor and minority students. Because schools serving low-income and minority communities have higher numbers of newer teachers, schools in the quartile with the highest percentage of minority students are 60 percent more likely to lose a teacher to layoffs than a school in the quartile with the lowest percentage of minority students. Read more.
  • A review of the teacher layoff process in California by the Legislative Analyst Office concluded that seniority-based layoffs lead “to lower quality of the overall teacher workforce” and recommends that “the state explore alternatives that could provide districts with the discretion to do what is in the best interest of their students.” Read more.