Archived Story

Jessica Sieff: ‘Last In’ practice should be on its way out

Published 11:20pm Wednesday, March 16, 2011

In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker has made an example of school teacher Megan Sampson.

Named “Outstanding First Year Teacher” in the state, Sampson received a layoff  notice one week later. A casualty of a widely-utilized practice commonly known as “Last In, First Out.”

“Last In, First Out” is a practice that requires, in the situation of a layoff, that the last hired teachers be the first to lose their jobs despite performance or merit.

In the case of Sampson, she wasn’t the only teacher to be let go that week who exemplified talent and a performance in the classroom that proved positive results.

In an article outlining their story, another teacher who was let go within the district “fought back tears” inside her principal’s office after finding out she would also lose her job — not just to budget cuts — but to an antiquated system that favors seniority over substance.

And her principal was just as distraught, having “hand-picked” the best teachers he could find for the students in his district, he was left no choice in who should stay and who should go.

There is a movement brewing among the chaos of new criticism over collective bargaining (which also affects teachers) over the “Last In, First Out” rule. Specifically that it need be eliminated.

And it need be.

There’s a reason any debate regarding the fates of those educators at the front of the classroom is extremely emotional.

The term “layoff” is, of course, not exclusive to teachers. It pops up in stories that take place in manufacturing facilities and even media companies. But on the proverbial production line in the world of education, the commodity is not a newspaper or an automotive.

The product is our most precious and important cargo. Not only children beloved but the leaders, thinkers, artists and creators of the future.

So when it comes to discussing the factors of their education, it is most certainly understandable that the discussion would become emotional.

As school districts nationwide face the reality of layoffs; however, it’s important to recognize that emotion goes both ways.

I am sure no school district wants to see any of its teachers leave its classroom, much less face financial hardship in the first place. But in the face of that unfortunate reality we should all wish to see school districts across the country keep the best and the brightest in order to educate and develop a generation of the best and the brightest.

We are not doing that if we try to travel the “safe” road and claim that all of our teachers are created equal. I have seen inspiring educators in their very first and 26th years of teaching. And having been a student, I have been failed by teachers as well.

It also strikes me as questionable why teachers’ unions everywhere, claiming to be operating in the protection and best interest of its members, would be so quick and emotionless to honor a system that cripples its brightest stars — in direct contrast to the protection and best interest of what it claims to be its first and foremost priority: students.

“Last In, First Out” is a detriment to school districts not just in Wisconsin, but everywhere.

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