Today (February 16), the Minnesota House will debate a proposal that would change rules regarding teacher seniority and layoffs.
The bill would – among other things - authorize districts to base any unrequested leave of absence, discharge or demotion on a mix of performance evaluation and seniority instead of only seniority. This Last In/First Out, or “LIFO,” is a long-standing policy that’s been the norm in much of the country, though Minnesota is one of the only about a dozen states that require it based on state law.
“We mandate that schools use quality-blind seniority privileges for retention decisions. That doesn’t work; it’s being widely criticized. I think we’ll take a look at repealing that,” said Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, in an interview with MPR earlier this session.
The LIFO policy has three major negative impacts: first, when districts conduct seniority-based layoffs, they end up firing some of our most highly effective educators. Such a policy is bad for students and schools.
Second, LIFO policies actually drive up the number of layoffs because junior teachers make less money, meaning more have to be let go in order to meet the overall amount of money they need to save.
Finally, LIFO disproportionately impacts the lowest performing schools. These schools have larger numbers of new teachers, who are the first to lose their jobs in a layoff untimely disrupting the schools that need the stability the most.
LIFO is one of the several education bills GOP lawmakers are pushing to pass this year. Two other bills that have been heard already are HF1860 which is a student-first bill that allows levy funding to follow students to a charter school within their home district. The other bill, HF1770, requires teacher candidates to pass the basic skills exam before obtaining a license in Minnesota.
Representative Petersen spoke about the LIFO bill on The Flag earlier this month: