FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 8, 2017
Contact: Melody Meyer, firstname.lastname@example.org or 646.770.7061
PEJ Releases Video Explaining New Jersey’s Unjust “Last In, First Out” Quality-blind Teacher Layoff Law
Newark, NJ—A short video that explains New Jersey’s “last in, first out” (LIFO) teacher layoff law was released on social media today by Partnership for Educational Justice (PEJ), the nonprofit supporting six Newark parents and their pro bono legal team in a legal challenge to the constitutionality of this statute. In the lawsuit filed on November 1, 2016, the parents assert that New Jersey’s LIFO law violates students’ right to an education by unjustly requiring school districts to ignore teacher quality and retain ineffective teachers while laying off effective teachers, despite substantial research establishing that teacher quality is the most important in-school factor affecting student learning.
The video supports the plaintiff parents in their fight to end an illogical law that puts their children at risk of losing the thorough and efficient education guaranteed to them by the state constitution. By explaining the LIFO policy mandated by this law, the video also informs other New Jersey parents about the negative impact of LIFO and encourages them to follow the progress of the lawsuit. The video appears on PEJ’s website and will also be promoted on PEJ’s social media channels – Youtube and Facebook – as well as select local news platforms. The full script of the video is included at the end of this press release.
State funding for local school districts in the 2017-18 school year remains somewhat uncertain after Governor Christie’s budget address last week. But, in the 2017-18 state aid summary budget released by the State Education Department last Thursday, district allocations are projected to be flat with current funding rates. In Newark, this will result in a $60 million deficit for the public schools. Under the LIFO law, this financial situation forces the district to make a difficult decision: either lay off dozens or hundreds of teachers, many of whom are effective; or, retain ineffective teachers and make cuts to other educational expenditures. Newark Public Schools employ more than half of the state’s ineffective teachers, according to the most recent data released by the state education department. Other school districts around New Jersey are also facing significant funding deficits.
“Most parents I know have no idea about this law and how it hurts our kids,” said Wendy Soto, mother of two Newark Public School students and plaintiff in HG v. Harrington, the parent-led lawsuit challenging the state’s teacher layoff statute. “As a mother, I’m outraged that our children will be forced into classrooms with ineffective teachers while effective teachers are let go. I hope parents pay attention and join the fight to keep our best teachers in schools, especially with budget cuts on the horizon.”
“Especially as districts face significant funding deficits, it’s important that public school parents understand how the current teacher layoff law violates students’ right to a quality education,” said Ralia Polechronis, Executive Director of Partnership for Educational Justice. “Research is clear that teachers are the most critical in-school factor affecting student learning. Because of New Jersey’s LIFO law, districts like Newark, with a significant number of ineffective teachers, are forced to retain these ineffective teachers, and either lay off their more qualified colleagues or cut important educational programming. In the current funding climate, it’s more important than ever that New Jersey’s unconstitutional teacher layoff law is repealed.”
The video released by PEJ today highlights academic research showing that students with high-quality, effective teachers are more likely to graduate from high school, attend college, have higher paying jobs, and higher lifetime earnings than their peers who have ineffective teachers, even for just one year.
Newark ranked in the bottom third of twenty-five urban school districts investigated in a report released last year by the Fordham Institute looking into how difficult it is for ineffective veteran teachers to be removed. Newark Public Schools received only three out of a possible ten points awarded for degree of difficulty removing a veteran teacher who has been identified as ineffective, with ten indicating that it is easy to remove an ineffective teacher and zero indicating that it is very difficult.
To better understand the effect that LIFO layoffs would have on Newark’s overall teacher quality, Newark Public Schools ran the numbers in 2014 on a hypothetical teacher layoff scenario. Under the quality-blind LIFO layoff mandate, 85 percent of the teachers laid off would have been rated effective or highly effective, and only 4 percent of the teachers laid off would have been rated ineffective. Under a performance-based system, only 35 percent of teachers laid off would have been rated effective and no teachers rated highly effective would lose their jobs.
Since at least 2012, the Newark Public School district 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 costly work-around, which cost the district $10 million dollars in 2016-17, has diverted valuable resources from educational programming and other expenses that could improve the education of Newark students.
Full script of the video released today:
Parents, did you know that some New Jersey school districts are facing a terrible budget crisis that will force them to lay off teachers?
Did you also know that state law mandates teachers must be laid off based only on seniority? The law is called Last In, First Out. It prohibits school districts from considering how good—or bad—teachers are.
This law is bad for students and unfair to some of New Jersey’s most qualified teachers.
In Newark, 85 percent of teachers who stand to lose their jobs have been rated “effective” and “highly-effective” by their principals. That’s hundreds of our best teachers being taken away from our children.
But, if schools were allowed to consider how well a teacher teaches, they could keep their best educators in classrooms with students.
We have the power to change this.
With great teachers, students learn more, are more likely to graduate high school, attend college, and earn a higher salary.
New Jersey’s education law should protect students first. Support the families fighting to keep great teachers in public schools. Our children deserve the best.
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.