Steiny: March 1 Teacher Layoff Notices are No Help

Julia Steiny points to an annual March right–the sending out of layoff notices to teachers who might get the ax–as a flawed practice on many levels.

In theory, the law is supposed to give teachers time to look for a new job.
But in practice, it means that school communities suffer almost four full months of stress over who does and does not have a job. They live with four months of teachers feeling unappreciated, and four months of resentment against administrators who made the layoff decisions.
Anxious teachers make for unhappy school climates, which impede student learning. Obviously.

Yes, obviously. As Steiny explains, the law is “rock solid” and attempts to change the date have failed time and again even though it seems self-evident that the agida it causes isn’t constructive. So why doesn’t it change? Oh, it has its purposes:

But the March 1 law is also clever. Machiavellian. The misery that layoffs cause provides a powerful incentive not to freak the staff out, and to leave the status quo peacefully in place. Cowardly school committees and administrators hope to heaven that a few retirements will give them the flexibility to accommodate changes in programming or enrollment.

The March 1 date also clashes with a key time on the school planning calendar:

March is right about when schools are starting to hone their school-improvement strategies for the following year. Most schools are under tremendous pressure to improve their test scores and graduation rates. But only with personnel flexibility can they shore up their math program by hiring coaches, or give struggling readers a double period of English Language Arts. To get that flexibility for September, they must lay off all kinds of people in March to cover their bases, until administrators know exactly what teachers and skills they need.
So seas of pink slips must flow.

As Steiny suggests, let’s have them flow in June instead.

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13 years ago

As I understand, the origin of this practice is the teacher contract itself, which calls for a certain (lengthy) notice period in the event a teacher must be laid off.
In other words, this was done at the behest of teachers. Ms. Steiny is presumably referencing this when she says that schools send notice “in March to cover their bases“.
If teachers are now finding that they are uncomfortable with such a long notice period, they need to convey this at contract time to whoever is representing them so that the contract can be modified accordingly.

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