Tuesday, February 24, 2015


Two letters on the same topic from today's Star Tribune. The subject: an upcoming legislative attempt to change our schools' teacher retention rules so recently hired teachers aren't the first ones laid off when budgets are tight.

A strategy of undermining seniority wouldn’t appear to add up

What is your goal? I ask this question of Minnesota legislators who are introducing bills to revise the teacher seniority laws. The Star Tribune reported that “[b]etween 2008 and 2013, nearly 2,200 Minnesota teachers were laid off under the so-called ‘last in, first out’ [LIFO] provision in state law” and outlined data showing about 550 rookie teachers laid off per year. There are approximately 50,000 public school teachers in the state of Minnesota, so this accounts for about 1 percent of all teachers.

So is it possible that a small fraction of the 1 percent of teachers who were laid off were truly better than the more experienced teachers? It is possible. However, given choice between the skills of a veteran teacher and a rookie, I will place my faith in experience every time. But even if you disagree, I ask you again, what is your goal? Is it to debate laws that focus on a fraction of 1 percent of all teachers, in the hope of improving the overall performance of Minnesota students? If so, your math doesn’t add up. But what do I know? I’m just a veteran teacher.

Brian Swiggum, Hopkins

• • •

You can’t have it both ways. Either the worst, least experienced teachers are trapped in high-poverty, high-children-of-color schools by seniority laws that allow senior, more proficient teachers to choose schools that are mostly white in middle-class neighborhoods, or more senior teachers are deadwood that can’t be eliminated because of seniority laws, leaving talented less experienced teachers to be laid off.

Which is it?

Carol Henderson, Minneapolis

Both Brian and Carol make excellent points. I wonder if states where teachers have no tenure protection provide a better education to students... What, the answer is no, you say? I'm shocked. I thought this one change was going to solve all our problems.

I guess LIFO should be better known as GIGO (garbage in, garbage out).

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