Thursday, March 23, 2017

Newark Public Schools: We Are "Hampered" By LIFO Laws that Privilege Adults Over Children.

Defendant admits to the allegations contained in Paragraph 12 of the Complaint in part. Defendants declare that the District Schools are making great strides towards to meet the constitutionally-mandated Thorough and Effective education requirements for all schools in the District. Through no fault of its own, however, and even without additional cuts to the District's funding, the District has been hampered by statutory restrictions that essentially protect the interests of adults over the rights of the children of Newark. As New Jersey's Courts have recognized, we must do everything we can to create an environment where these children can learn effectively to create a pathway to success in school and in life. The most important way to make that happen is to ensure that we are able to retain our best teachers in the Newark Public Schools.

That's from the latest court filing from Newark Public Schools in HG v. Harrington, the lawsuit pressed by six Newark mothers who are challenging the constitutionality of New Jersey's quality-blind lay-off system, also known as LIFO, or "last in, first out."  According to a press release issued today by Partnership for Educational Justice, "Newark’s answer includes admissions that overwhelmingly concede the allegations put forward by the plaintiffs. This filing is significant for two reasons: 1) the district admits that New Jersey’s LIFO law causes harm to students and 2) these admissions undermine the credibility of motions to dismiss the lawsuit filed by the teachers’ unions, who intervened as defendants in the case in December 2016."

In other words, Newark Public Schools' legal counsel just conceded that the practice of LIFO, which forbids local districts from dismissing tenured teachers based on effectiveness of instruction and requires that districts dismiss teachers during lay-offs based solely on time served, hurts children and deprives them of their constitutional rights. No wonder that N.J. is one of only ten states that adhere to this archaic and unprofessional form of staffing schools.

The press release also lists the following admissions made by Newark Public Schools:


  • NPS admits that laying off teachers without any consideration of their quality prohibits children from being educated in the constitutionally mandated manner (paragraph 14)
  • NPS admits that enforcement of LIFO in Newark will remove quality teachers, which leads to lower test scores, lower high school grad rates, lower college attendance rates, and sharply reduced lifetime earnings (paragraph 104)
  • NPS admits that its current practice of keeping ineffective teachers on the district payroll, including those in a pool of “educators without placement schools” (EWPS), is harmful and unsustainable (paragraphs 80-81) and that the EWPS pool would be wholly unnecessary were it not for LIFO (paragraph 89)
  • NPS admits that LIFO undermines its ability to attract and retain effective teachers (paragraphs 96-103)
  • NPS notes that the statutes governing termination proceedings for tenured teachers do not address the impact of quality-blind layoffs on students through the retention of low-performing teachers in times of budget cuts (paragraph 93)


We all know this, right? For a district under fiscal strain and falling enrollment, budget cuts and lay-offs are inevitable. And because of LIFO these lay-offs will be determined robotically, without regard for educator talent and skill. Sure, we have a limp form of teacher evaluations based on student outcomes, but one in which only 2% of teachers were labeled "ineffective."  So Newark Public Schools is obliged to maintain a rubber room for teachers whom no principal would hire (the EWPS), obliged to retain low-performing teachers, and obliged to deprive children of their constitutional rights to an effective education.

I admire Newark Public Schools for its honest admissions. I live in hope that New Jersey will join  forty other states and relieve children and families of the burden of a tenure system that privileges adult job retention rights over the effective education of Newark's children.

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