Legislators approve bill removing teacher seniority protection

Published: Mar. 6, 2014 at 2:50 AM CST|Updated: Apr. 3, 2014 at 1:51 AM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Alabama lawmakers are moving ahead with plansto let school systems decide for themselves who to lay off in the event of hardtimes.

Huntsville School Board president David Blairsaid when the city's school system had run short of money and had to letteachers go, it was prohibited by state law from evaluating which ones werebetter to keep or lay off. The system was forced to keep on those teachers withthe most seniority and lay off those with the least.

"Having an effective teacher, to me, is moreimportant than time of service," Blair said. "Effectiveness was a big thing forus. We got so much pushback; we had to fall back to the old 'last in, firstout.'"

Committees of both the State House and Senateapproved bills that say seniority cannot be the biggest consideration whenschool systems have to make reductions in force to deal with shortfalls.

Teachers' union reps said the idea leavesteachers at the mercy of evaluations that haven't been devised yet. But teacherRichard Reynolds, now principal of Huntsville Achievement School, said thecurrent system has to go.

"If you've got a teacher who may not be doingas good a job, and [they have] been there 30 years, it doesn't matter. It'sjust last hired – first fired; it's not anything about the quality of theteacher," said Reynolds.

Blair said when Huntsville was forced to baseits layoffs on seniority, it cost the schools. "We lost some teachers that wereexcellent," he said. "We kept some folks that probably were not as effective inthe classroom. We would have liked to have that flexibility; we didn't at thetime. Something like this would allow us to have that in the future."

According to Blair, the city's books haveconsistently been in the black lately, so this isn't likely to be an issue inthe foreseeable future, but there are other school systems across the statethat are looking at budget problems. Those schools, Blair said, will need theflexibility to keep up quality as they try to get their budgets under control.

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