California urged to consider non-seniority-based teacher layoffs


California school districts issue more pink slips than necessary and the state should consider alternatives to seniority-based layoffs, according to a report from the state legislative analyst’s office.

In the report, released last week, the nonpartisan analyst said that because state and local budget information is available only after the initial deadline for districts to send out layoff notices, more pink slips are issued than may be needed.

The initial notices are required by state law to be sent out by March 15.

This month, the Los Angeles Unified School District sent about 11,700 layoff notices to teachers and other staff. The district has laid off more than 8,000 employees over the last four years but eventually hired many back.

The report recommends that the initial deadline be pushed back to June 1, aligning the process more with the state budget cycle. This would allow districts to have more accurate fiscal information, reduce the number of layoff notices sent, and improve teacher and school morale, the report said.

Since 2007-08, the number of full-time teachers has declined by 32,000, or 11%, statewide, the report said.

The report also suggests that the state explore alternatives to its current teacher layoff law, which requires districts to base layoffs solely on seniority, meaning the most recent hires are the most susceptible to losing their jobs.

Although the law is objective and easy to implement, it can lower overall teacher quality, the report said. The analyst recommends that California follow the lead of other states that allow individual districts discretion in the process.

“Ideally districts would use multiple factors in making layoff determinations — factors that result in the least harm to students, the overall teaching workforce and the school community,” the report said. These could include student performance, teacher quality and contributions to the community.

Los Angeles Unified Supt. John Deasy, among others, has called for a similar change in state law so that “last hired, first fired” wouldn’t be the only consideration during budget crises.