Looking Closer Into the LIFO Issue

With the House passage of HF2, the debate over Last In, First Out policies governing teacher hiring and firing moves to the Minnesota Senate.


One criticism often made in the course of the LIFO debate is that it isn’t major issue that affects school.  While there are many factors that make for high quality schools and successful outcomes, the quality of the teacher is a very important one and anything which inhibits school leaders from using performance when making staffing decisions has an impact.  It’s time for Minnesota to adopt this simple reform which allows teachers to include a variety of factors including experience and performance when making hiring decisions.


Read the background information below on LIFO reform and then click here to look up who your State Senator is so you can tell them to join the Minnesota House in passing this reform which helps ensure our children have the best teachers.


Last In First Out Policies Prevent Administrators From Including Performance And Quality When Making Hiring Decisions


In 5 Year Period, Over 2,000 Teachers Laid Off Due To LIFO. “Hundreds of Minnesota teachers lose their jobs each year, regardless of how effective they may be in the classroom, because of a state law and union contracts that protect more senior teachers from layoffs as a result of budget cuts. Between 2008 and 2013, nearly 2,200 Minnesota teachers were laid off under the so-called “last in, first out” provision in state law, according to a recent analysis by the Minnesota Department of Education. (Ricardo Lopez, “Minnesota Lawmakers Aim To Revamp Seniority Rules On Teacher Layoffs” February 21, 2015)


 When Faced With Ties, Districts Use Obscure Measures To Break Ties, Like Coin Flipping. Some districts, such as Inver Grove Heights, use the day and hour a teacher was hired as a last-resort measure to break a tie. The Milaca School District contract specifies that if two teachers with equal seniority are under layoff consideration, a coin must be flipped to determine who loses their job if other tiebreaking steps fail. In Lakeview schools, the teacher with the smallest last four digits of his or her Social Security number gets the job if other tiebreaking measures fail”  (Ricardo Lopez, “Minnesota Lawmakers Aim To Revamp Seniority Rules On Teacher Layoffs” February 21, 2015)


One Districts Looks At The Teacher’s College Grades, But Not Their Students’ Grades.  “In Albany schools, administrators will review teachers’ undergraduate and graduate grade-point averages before flipping a coin to break the tie.” (Ricardo Lopez, “Minnesota Lawmakers Aim To Revamp Seniority Rules On Teacher Layoffs” February 21, 2015)


Reform Carries Broad Support From Across Spectrum.That broad-based support is reflected in coalitions of local business, parent, community and minority groups that want to save the best teachers from layoffs. In addition to MinnCAN, the national StudentsFirst education reform group supports the modified tenure law. And Educators for Excellence, a new group of about 1,000 teachers that includes Education Minnesota members, has joined the ranks of those who support changing current law.” (Editorial, “Schools Should Include Performance When Making Teacher Layoff Decisions,” Star Tribune, March 6, 2015)


A Past Effort At Reform Was Stymied By Governor Dayton, Who Said He Wanted To Wait For New Teacher Evaluation System, Which Is Now In Place. “A key difference between LIFO 2012 and LIFO 2015 is the new state teacher evaluation system, which was developed with lots of input from Education Minnesota. In 2012, Dayton said the lack of a fair evaluation system should keep the issue off the legislative agenda until the 2015-2016 session.” (Beth Hawkins, “From Funding Choices To Teacher Licensing: Hot Education Issues At The Capitol,” MinnPost, January 19, 2015)


Teachers Affected By LIFO Aren’t Just Straight Out Of College –Minnesota Teachers Of The Year Affected.  “Just look at my friend, Lee-Ann Stephens, who, in accordance with LIFO, lost her job in Minneapolis Public Schools, only to be named Minnesota Teacher of the Year at her new district. She was and continues to be a phenomenal educator, and yet regardless of how hard she works and how well her students perform, she is always at risk of losing her job again to someone with more seniority.” (Holly Kragthorpe, “Valuing Teachers Beyond A Seniority Number,” Grand Forks Herald, July 22, 2014)


A Former Teacher Of The Year Was Laid Off 4 Different Times Due To Outdated LIFO Rules. “Cathy Nelson has been a teacher for 15 years, the last 13 of them teaching social studies at Fridley High School, in Fridley, Minn., near Minneapolis. … Along with the admiration of her students, Ms. Nelson has won a number of awards. Last October she was named Minnesota’s Teacher of the Year. The only trouble was, she had just been laid off. … ‘What happened is obvious,’ said Donald A. Meyers, principal at Fridley High School. ‘Last hired is the first fired.’ Laid Off, Again. Unfortunately for Ms. Nelson, this is the fourth time that has happened. With 13 years at Fridley, she had the shortest length of service among the school’s five social studies teachers.” (William Celis, “Minnesota’s Teacher Of The Year Is Laid Off In Budget Crisis” New York Times, January 27, 1991)