March 21, 2024

Efforts to protect teacher diversity challenged as Legislature opts not to add layoff protections for high-quality, diverse teachers 

March 21 (Boston) — The MA Legislature’s Joint Committee on Education recently released a new bill on teacher diversity, opting not to include critical layoff protections for diverse educators that Educators for Excellence – Massachusetts (E4E-MA) had been actively fighting for with (S. 340 and H. 583), “An Act Enabling All Students to Thrive.” Though H. 549/S. 311, “An Act Relative to Educator Diversity” would make meaningful progress in increasing teacher diversity through recruitment and incentives to sustain diverse educators, it fails to account for any protective measures that retain teachers in the event of layoffs, especially in layoffs due to budget cuts–many which have already occurred in districts across Massachusetts.

An Act Enabling All Students to Thrive, if advanced, would have protected teacher diversity throughout the Commonwealth by addressing the governing “last in, first out” (LIFO) layoff policy, which, if left untouched, would disproportionately lay off diverse educators who are earlier in their careers and thus first in line to receive pink slip layoff notices. A recent study shows that Massachusetts stands to lose the most in the diversification of its workforce with LIFO in place: the Commonwealth ranks number one in the country for diverse educators being predominantly earlier in their careers.  

“While we are happy to see the legislature taking strides to improve teacher diversity in Massachusetts, it is disheartening to see that the Education Committee chose not to prioritize protecting these very educators in the event of district layoffs,” said Lisa Lazare, Executive Director of Educators for Excellence – Massachusetts. “As districts continue to face tough budget decisions this year and next, we will surely see the consequences of not taking action at this juncture. The status quo policy of LIFO will ultimately harm student success, which is unequivocally tied to having a teacher at the front of the classroom who shares a student’s background, identity, or culture. Though the EDA is a meaningful start in prioritizing the recruitment of diverse educators, we will continue to fight throughout the remainder of the session for clear policies that retain quality educators.” 

In addition to E4E-MA and the eight legislative co-sponsors of “An Act Enabling All Students to Thrive,” a broader coalition of over 15 organizations has continued to stress the consequences of not taking immediate action in improving upon LIFO. Over the past month, over 300 constituents also wrote letters to the Education Committee, expressing support for the bill and urging its passage. 

The threat of layoffs comes on the heels of Boston Public Schools, Brockton Public Schools, Dartmouth Public Schools, Lawrence Public Schools, Marblehead Public Schools, and Pittsfield Public Schools announcing or already having to lay off teachers due to fiscal constraints. Just this week, two additional school districts also announced budget shortfalls that will lead to layoffs: Braintree Public Schools and Brookline Public Schools. With declining student enrollment across districts, a relative increase in staffing in post-pandemic years, and the dry-up of federal relief dollars beginning this year, layoffs are likely to continue proliferating throughout districts in the next school year, disproportionately impacting earlier career diverse educators.

The Educator Diversity Act takes a meaningful step forward in diversifying the teacher workforce in Massachusetts by establishing an Educator Diversity Trust Fund that funds programs aimed at increasing teacher diversity through recruitment and teacher residency programs. Notably, the bill aims to prioritize high-needs schools and districts, which E4E has noted through available data and research are most at risk of losing early career educators of color when districts face layoffs.

Unless additional factors of teacher quality and background are considered when making layoff decisions, Massachusetts will likely see years of progress erased in diversifying the teaching workforce, which currently ranks second in the country for the ratio of teachers of color to student populations. Numerous studies show that the diversity of classroom teachers greatly improves learning outcomes for all students. 

Though “An Act Enabling All Students to Thrive” aims to address LIFO, it does not seek to eliminate seniority outright. Instead, the bill proposes several considerations as a measure of quality and diversity when districts face layoffs, including whether a teacher received the highest mark on their performance rating; they work in a school with a high percentage of “high needs” students; or they have linguistic proficiency of an in-district language or dialect.

E4E-MA will continue to advocate for the inclusion of language from its bill through the remainder of the legislative session, which concludes July 31, 2024.


Founded by public school teachers, Educators for Excellence is a growing movement of more than 33,000 educators, united around a common set of values and principles for improving student learning and elevating the teaching profession. We work together to identify issues that impact our schools, create solutions to these challenges, and advocate for policies and programs that give all students access to a quality education. 

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Efforts to protect teacher diversity challenged as Legislature opts not to add layoff protections for high-quality, diverse teachers