New Lawsuit Challenges “Last In, First Out” Teacher Layoff Statutes

On Tuesday, a group of Newark families, supported by the nonprofit organization Partnership for Educational Justice, filed HG v. Harrington, a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of New Jersey’s “last in, first out” (LIFO) quality-blind teacher layoff statutes. The lawsuit asserts that New Jersey’s LIFO law violates students’ constitutional right to a “thorough and efficient system of free public schools” by unjustly requiring school districts to let go of passionate and motivating newer teachers and instead keep ineffective teachers due to their seniority. 

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Tanisha Garner, mother of two Newark Public School students and plaintiff in HG v. Harrington.

The 74’s Naomi Nix highlights Plaintiff Tanisha Garner’s frustration with parents’ voices not being heard in decisions about their children’s education: “As our schools face severe budget cuts, our children deserve the best teachers possible, and the ‘last-in, first-out’ teacher layoff law stands in the way of this. It’s time to stand up to the elected officials who are playing politics with our children’s futures.”

Substantial research has consistently shown that teacher quality is the most important in-school factor affecting student learning. Quality teachers make the difference — not only in students’ academic performance but also in their lifetime success. HG v. Harrington is the third lawsuit filed by the Partnership for Educational Justice challenging teacher tenure protections. Those lawsuits were modeled after the groundbreaking education equality lawsuit Vergara v. California

Yesterday, the same group of Newark families filed a motion to intervene in an attempt by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office to reopen the school funding lawsuit Abbott v. Burke that seeks to remove extra education funding to 31 high-need school districts — those most effected by LIFO teacher layoff laws. According to the Partnership for Educational Justice’s press release, the Plaintiffs’ motion also “urge[s] the courts to consider the constitutionality of New Jersey’s LIFO law on its own, and argue[s] that this issue should not be tied to school funding decisions.”