Why New Jersey Still Needs Tenure Reform

Newark Superintendent Chris Cerf has trimmed the city’s school budget deficit from $40 million to somewhere between $15 million to $20 million, but not without a less fungible cost: the loss of great teachers, reports the Star-Ledger.

Under former school chief Cami Anderson, 450 teachers were placed in Newark’s version of a rubber room, a pool called “educators without placement.” The annual cost of keeping these teachers out of classrooms -- the cost of their salaries and benefits -- was estimated at $35 million. So Cerf made the hard call, one that he called “fiscally essential,” to shrink the rubber room to 179 teachers and place the rest back in front of kids.

Who did these once-displaced teachers replace?
[M]any would be taking the spots of higher-performing teachers, who were nonetheless placed on the chopping block due to union seniority rules, often referred to as LIFO – shorthand for "last in, first out." 
In some cases these are very respected, beloved teachers," [Cerf] said. "Someone in EWPS (educators without placement) had to fill those spots."
So Newark Public School District saves essential money (although it’s still operating at a deficit)  by firing some “very respected, beloved teachers.” This decision is dictated by widget-driven seniority rules that value educators with more time on the clock, despite numerous studies that show that classroom effectiveness plateaus after a few years of service.

Now, it’s possible that at least a few of the teachers in the rubber room were placed there unfairly, perhaps without due process. But why do their rights to employment trump those of students to effective classroom instruction?

It's time to get rid of LIFO.

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