February 28, 2023

Majority of States Have Teacher Layoff Policies that Prioritize Seniority Over Effectiveness, Negatively Impacting Teachers of Color

[NATIONAL] (February 28, 2023) – Educators for Excellence (E4E) and TNTP today released “So All Students Thrive: Rethinking Layoff Policy To Protect Teacher Diversity”. The report quantifies the negative impacts that seniority-based layoff policies could have on teachers of color and highlights a range of proven alternatives that states and districts could implement to protect them instead. 

“We know unequivocally that teacher diversity improves outcomes for all students,” said Tequilla Brownie, CEO of TNTP. “But developing and retaining an effective, diverse teaching force is also critical to addressing ongoing educator shortages. Layoff policies that ignore teacher quality and student needs threaten that progress.”  

Through this research, E4E and TNTP found that in nearly every state teachers of color are more likely to be in the early years of their teaching careers than white teachers. Nationally, teachers of color are nearly 50 percent more likely to be in their first or second year than white teachers, putting them at risk of being disproportionately impacted by future layoffs. And if teachers of color live in a state that uses seniority as the single—or primary—variable in their layoff decisions, they are more likely to be let go first. Currently, 12 states require some form of seniority-based layoff policy, either through explicit state law or a requirement that teachers without tenure be laid off first. And another 19 states were found to leave the decision to districts—many of which include seniority as the primary factor for layoffs in their collective bargaining agreements. 

“Seniority based layoff policies like LIFO (last-in, first-out) are more than just a resource issue,” said Evan Stone, co-founder and co-CEO of E4E. “They are an equity issue at the core. These policies are a triple threat – they disproportionately impact teachers of color, they disproportionately impact schools that serve low-income students and students of color, and they are quality blind. If we hope to truly advance equity in our schools and communities, we need to dismantle policies that we know will disproportionately impact educators and students of color.”

Now is the time for states and districts to reexamine their teachers’ contracts and layoff policies. Student enrollment declines, the expiration of federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief dollars, and a potential economic recession are creating a perfect storm for district budget shortfalls. If this happens, district leaders will likely turn to teacher layoffs, a common approach to rightsize school budgets. 

“There’s already a dearth of black male educators,” acknowledged New York City educator and former U.S. Department of Education fellow, Arthur Everett. “I’m one of the few faces that look like the kids and have similar cultural experiences, and I see first-hand how important this is for our students’ learning and understanding. We need to take a holistic view when making layoff decisions, looking at teachers’ overarching impact on their students, families and communities.”

“Our students deserve to learn from teachers who share and can appreciate their unique identities and lived experiences – and see them as not just capable of proficiency but excellence,” said Keri Rodrigues, co-founder and president of the National Parents Union. “When our children are able to learn from teachers who make them feel more confident and expand their horizons, they are able to achieve more than we ever could have imagined.”

Seniority-based layoff systems honor years of experience, which can be an asset to students and the teaching profession. And while experience matters, understanding teachers’ overall impact is what matters most when it comes to having teachers in the classroom who are making the biggest difference for students. By eliminating, replacing, or revising layoff policies and looking at criteria besides just seniority, teachers of color will be better-positioned to have long-lasting impacts for their students and communities.  

“Teachers help our students build their understanding and awareness of the world around them and their understanding of students’ unique needs is vital to overall success,” said Massachusetts State Representative Priscila Sousa. “When we can diversify the teacher workforce, we are better equipped to help students learn. We’re proud of the steps that we’re taking in Massachusetts to build and protect teacher diversity, including H.D. 597 and our work to expand the state’s layoff policies to consider factors beyond seniority.”

Thankfully, there are several factors, in addition to seniority and effectiveness, that states and districts are already using to make difficult layoff decisions, which we hope will serve as a model for others looking to make a change. Among these factors are cultural and linguistic expertise, school contributions and unique skills, whether a teacher came from a “Grow Your Own” certification program, and whether a teacher is teaching in a “hard to staff” position or schools. States such as Minnesota and Oregon, among others, have paved the way for how to revise seniority-based layoff policies in teacher contracts, and multiple leading education organizations have come out in support of such changes. 

To learn more about the need to rethink seniority-based teacher layoffs and how states and districts are making it happen, visit: soallstudentsthrive.org



About Educators for Excellence (E4E)

Founded by public school teachers, Educators for Excellence is a growing movement of more than 35,000 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. 


About TNTP

TNTP believes our nation’s public schools can offer all children an excellent education. A national nonprofit founded by teachers, we help school systems end educational inequality. We work at every level of the public education system to attract and train talented teachers and school leaders, ensure rigorous and engaging classrooms, and create environments that prioritize great teaching and accelerate student learning. Since 1997, we’ve partnered with hundreds of public school districts, charter school networks, and state departments of education. We have recruited or trained more than 50,000 teachers and inspired policy change through acclaimed studies such as The Opportunity Myth (2018). Today, TNTP works directly with more than 300 school systems in 35 states.


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Majority of States Have Teacher Layoff Policies that Prioritize Seniority Over Effectiveness, Negatively Impacting Teachers of Color