“Public schools are here to educate our children, first and foremost,” said Wendy Soto, plaintiff and mother of two Newark Public School students. “Everyone knows that many New Jersey school districts are in a serious funding crisis. Politicians have not protected our children’s right to a quality public education, and parents like me have nowhere to turn. The quality-blind LIFO law makes a difficult situation even worse for students in struggling schools. Enough is enough. It’s time to end this ridiculous law.”
“New Jersey’s LIFO law forces school districts like Newark to retain ineffective teachers and, in fact, put them back in the classroom while cutting spending to other critical areas of public education. Students are constitutionally entitled to more than this,” said Kathleen Reilly, attorney with Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer, one of the firms representing the Newark parents pro bono. “These decisions – made to evade application of the LIFO law – harm children. The negative impact of LIFO is pervasive today in Newark public schools and these families deserve to have their case heard in court.”
Since at least 2012, NPS has avoided laying off effective teachers by paying millions of dollars per year to cover the salaries of ineffective – but more senior – teachers even when no school would agree to their placement in the school. This expensive work-around, which is costing the district $10 million dollars in 2016-17, diverts valuable resources from educational programming and other critical components of an adequate public education. Because NPS employs more than half of the state’s ineffective teachers, it also puts Newark students at significant risk of being assigned to an ineffective teacher.
After it was announced that New Jersey State education funding would remain essentially flat for the 2017-18 school year, NPS acknowledged a looming $30 million deficit because of rising costs. Facing similar budget gaps over the past three years, NPS administrators restricted hiring practices, forcing teachers previously without placement into schools without mutual consent from the teacher and the principal. Research shows that teacher quality is the most influential in-school factor when it comes to student learning. It also shows that student achievement improves when principals are allowed to hire school staff according to quality and fit, rather than restricted by seniority.
About Partnership for Educational Justice (PEJ)
Founded in 2014, Partnership for Educational Justice is a nonprofit organization pursuing impact litigation that empowers families and communities to advocate for great public schools through the courts. In addition to supporting teacher layoff litigation in New Jersey, PEJ is currently working with parents and students in New York and Minnesota in support of legal challenges to unjust teacher employment statutes in those states.