Teacher layoffs: 'Last in, first out' lives on despite new law


How dysfunctional is the Clark County Education Association? The looming layoffs of hundreds of local educators represent not one, but two major victories for the union.

Teachers will start getting layoff notices this month because an arbitrator ended a yearlong contract dispute by siding with the union and against the Clark County School District. The decision lets teachers collect pay raises the district can't afford, necessitating a reduction in force to balance the 2012-13 budget. A pay freeze sought by Superintendent Dwight Jones would have preserved those jobs.

Trading pay raises for pink slips is win No. 1. Let the fist-pumping begin.

Recall that last year, Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval won a handful of education reforms in a budget compromise with legislative Democrats. Among the reforms in AB229: requiring that teacher layoffs cannot be based solely on seniority.

However, Democrats watered down the legislation enough to make the exact procedures for layoffs subject to collective bargaining. And the Clark County Education Association's final contract offer to the school district - the one picked by the arbitrator - largely preserves seniority-based layoffs.

That's win No. 2. Whoop-de-do.

How did the union accomplish that? Its reduction-in-force criteria are based on two-year windows: those disciplined and suspended over two years, those rated unsatisfactory for two years, etc. The new contract has not yet finished its first year under those terms. Meanwhile, the Teacher and Leaders Council, the educator-stacked panel charged with recommending exactly how teacher evaluations will be carried out statewide, hasn't finished its work, and the State Board of Education doesn't have to authorize the program until June 1, 2013 - more than a year from now.

Whether the school district will have any discretion - for example, sparing math, science and special education teachers - remains unclear. School district spokeswoman Amanda Fulkerson said the district's counsel believes the reduction-in-force criteria now in place might very well tie the administration's hands and force seniority-based layoffs.

That's terrible policy. It provides job security for lousy teachers simply because they've managed to stick around, and it ensures that some top-performing, less-experienced teachers will get the ax. Additionally, "last in, first out" increases the number of layoffs needed to balance the budget because rookie teachers have the lowest salaries.

It's all good with the union. Its primary missions remain keeping bad teachers in the classroom, preserving industrial-era work rules and salary schedules and avoiding tough questions about its practices. That's one reason why union President Ruben Murillo kicked Review-Journal journalists out of a Wednesday news conference regarding the arbitrator's ruling. This newspaper has always sought the union's side of the story on issues from education reform to the massive salaries its leaders collect. It has always given Mr. Murillo space in its commentary pages for his issue-dodging essays.

His cowardly exercise in authority perfectly demonstrates why we all lose when his union wins.

 

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