Minnesota Changes LIFO Policy

Yesterday, for MinnPost, Erin Hinrichs covered the changes to Minnesota’s state statute regarding the “last in, first out” layoff policy for teachers. This policy, also known as LIFO, is no longer written in the state statute as the default policy for districts and union leaders who can’t reach an agreement on how to handle layoffs.

With LIFO, the last person hired is the first to be let go in the event of layoffs. However, this policy does not take teacher effectiveness into consideration, often forcing administrators to let go of passionate and motivating teachers and instead keep ineffective teachers just because they have seniority. As the Star Tribune Editorial Board noted back in March, a LIFO-based layoff system that doesn’t take teacher quality into consideration disproportionately hurts low-income students and students of color, because teachers with less experience tend to work in schools with higher concentrations of these students. As a result, layoffs based on LIFO force these new teachers out of the classroom first — and, since they often make less money, more teachers are often laid off.

As MinnPost noted, “nationally, Minnesota is joining the ranks of a handful of other states that leave layoff policies completely up to the discretion of local districts. According to a 2015 state analysis conducted by the National Council on Teacher Quality, 19 states currently fall into this category. Another 19 allow seniority to be considered with other factors, 10 require seniority to be considered, and three states prohibit seniority from being a factor altogether. A closer look at how layoff policies are crafted in 35 large districts in the 19 states that leave layoff decisions at the district level shows that 19 use seniority as the sole or primary criterion. Only 14 percent use performance as the sole or primary criterion.”

At Students Matter, we think it’s common sense that experience alone does not guarantee effectiveness in the classroom. We believe that our education system — in California, and nationally — should reward and encourage passionate, motivating teachers whose hard work leads to real results for their students. It’s time for more states to follow in Minnesota’s footsteps and create a system where teachers are rewarded for their hard work, passion, and results, instead of a system that protects seniority at all costs.