UW News

February 12, 2009

K-12 schools: Seniority-neutral layoff policy would save jobs

K-12 school districts that lay off personnel according to seniority cause disproportionate damage to their programs and students than if layoffs were determined on a seniority-neutral basis.

“Seniority-based layoffs result in more employees getting laid off, including teachers, than is necessary,” contends Marguerite Roza, senior scholar at the Center on Reinventing Public Education, at UW Bothell, and research assistant professor in the College of Education.

School districts face severe budget challenges with state funding at risk in this perilous economy, Roza says. She calculates that if a district is required to use layoffs to cut its budget by 10 percent and cuts the most junior employees, it will need to axe 14.3 percent of its workforce (including teachers) to meet the 10 percent budget reduction.

“On the other hand,” Roza, “if that district followed a seniority-neutral layoff policy — say by a standard of employee effectiveness — only 10 percent of the workforce would lose their jobs.”

Nationwide, if all districts followed a seniority-neutral layoff policy to save 10 percent, 612,256 jobs would be lost compared with 874,623 lost under a seniority-based policy.

“Laying off school personnel by seniority is unnecessarily harmful,” says Roza. “It costs our schools and the larger economy more jobs, class sizes swell, programs disappear, and student performance is jeopardized.”

Roza’s four-page analysis of K-12 district layoff issues, “Seniority-Based Layoffs Will Exacerbate Job Loss in Public Education,” can be downloaded at www.crpe.org.

This Rapid Response analysis is the first in the “Schools in Crisis: Making Ends Meet” series.

The center engages in independent research and policy analysis on a range of K-12 public education reform issues, including choice and charters, finance and productivity, teachers, urban district reform, leadership, and state & federal reform.