‘Last in, first out’ needs reform

When the Clark County School District has had to resort to layoffs of personnel in the past, it would set into motion rows of tumbling dominoes in a process called bumping. If a fifth-grade teacher with 15 years of experience is told his or her job is redundant, that teacher can take the job of a third-grade teacher with only 12 years of experience, and that teacher can bump a less senior teacher, and so on and so on.

It happens with other unionized government entities as well. Last hired, first fired.

Senate Bill 169 in the Nevada Legislature, introduced by state Sen. Don Gustavson, R-Sparks, would bump the bumping practice.

The bill would prohibit giving seniority more significance than merit or performance when deciding who gets laid off.

Arguments for this bill can be found coast to coast. Recently a columnist in The Wall Street Journal broached the subject when writing about the relative merits of education coverage by the tabloid New York Post and the revered New York Times.

William McGurn notes that the Post has reported on a New York school system that can’t rid itself of bad teachers, because of "some inane rule or law that serves the adults in the system at the expense of the children, or some other story highlighting how the bad are rewarded while the good are punished. Of late, with teacher layoffs imminent, the newspaper has devoted special attention to the law that ensures the teachers who keep their jobs will do so because of seniority, not merit. It’s called LIFO — short for ‘last in, first out.’ "

Mr. McGurn writes that the Post has written almost daily about LIFO and how it will have a devastating effect at a high-achieving Bronx school for math staffed predominantly by younger teachers who will be replaced by those with seniority.

Reminds one of the Los Angeles Times story a few months ago about John H. Liechty Middle School in a poor part of town. When budget cuts required layoffs, seniority was all that counted. Once the top-ranked school in the district for raising English and math scores, Liechty plummeted from first to 61st for English proficiency growth.

When it comes to public employees doing our public service, shouldn’t we keep those who perform instead of those who managed to hang on the longest?

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