We have a number of problems with the functioning of the current staff seniority program in Kentucky’s public schools. One major problem is that older teachers get to stay regardless of whether or not they produce good results with students.
But, as Kentucky faces serious fiscal stress, a 2009 paper from the Center for Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) highlights another facet of the issue: seniority means more teachers and other school staff have to be laid off when budgets must be cut.
Table 2 in the CRPE report shows how this works. The far right column in the table (highlighted) shows the extra school staff cuts that will result when education salaries must be cut by the various listed percentages.
The reason this happens is simple. When you have to cut a certain number of dollars from the budget, you have to cut more lower-paid positions than would be required if some higher-paid, but lower performing, personnel were eliminated.
As we await a call for a special legislative session to finally produce a state budget, talk of cuts is being heard everywhere. If schools have to take a hit for the budget to balance, teachers need to know that their own seniority rules will force more of them out of work. And, legislators need to understand that the continued use of blind teacher seniority will cost more Kentuckians their jobs while it won’t necessarily keep the state’s best teachers in the classroom.
By the way, a similar effect can be expected in any area of the state where seniority controls jobs.
Hat tip to Education Week’s K-12 Politics blog for pointing us to this report.