Daily Video

May 11, 2011

School District Debates ‘Last Hired, First Fired’ Policy

As the school year draws to a close, school principals and superintendents across the country are facing budget cuts that force them to lay off teachers. In Hartford, Connecticut, officials are forced to lay off the teachers that were hired last, even if they show good performance in the classroom.

Teachers that are laid off are allowed to go into another school in the Hartford district and “bump” a less experienced teacher out. The teacher’s union in Hartford says experienced teachers deserve to be protected from layoffs.

However, several of Hartford’s most successful schools have been completely re-vamped to focus on certain skills, such as green technology, foreign languages and nursing. Some principals worry that the “bumping” system makes it hard to make necessary changes.

Still, despite its revolving door of teachers, the Hartford school district has shown large gains in student performance. School officials are trying to figure out what impact teacher layoffs and seniority issues are having on students and the overall classroom experience.

Quotes

“I want to be able to choose the faculty that work in this school, not because they have 10 years of service, or maybe just six years of service, but in fact, that they are the best fit for our children.” – Steve Perry, Capital Preparatory High School

“Every student has a right to the most qualified teacher available and not the most senior teacher. I think that there is a growing realization that this is the emerging civil rights issue of our time.” – Steven Adamowski, Hartford Public Schools

“If you were going to have an operation, I’m sure you would want the doctor with the most experience and the most time in the surgery to be your doctor. That’s the way we look at teachers.” – Andrea Johnson, Hartford Federation of Teachers

Warm Up Questions

1. What does a principal do?2. What are some other forces (groups or individuals) that influence how your school operates?3. What is a union? How does it protect its members?

Discussion Questions

1. Did you see anything in this video that you disagree with? Agree with?

2. If a school district faces budget cuts and has to lay off teachers, how do you think those teachers should be chosen?

3. How might this issue be resolved so that all teachers feel that they’ve been treated fairly?

Additional Resources

Video transcript

Obama Urges Schools to Pay Teachers More and Open Charter Schools

John Merrow on ‘The Influence of Teachers,’ Education Debate

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