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School Management        < Previous        Next >



When School Must RIF


Q. It is so disappointing to learn that our district is going to cut staff because of budget problems. What's the best way to do this, that disrupts the learning curve the least?


The economic situation and the federal education legislation, No Child Left Behind, have combined to make reductions in force (RIF) more common than ever before in the nation's schools.


The best way is to let the managers who are on the scene - the building principals - decide who has to go. But only rarely do school districts give hiring and firing power to those important middle managers, the principals.


Instead of using this opportunity to get rid of mediocre or poor or burned out teachers, or to discharge education bureaucrats who just do busy work instead of really improving education for kids, most schools in that predicament are going to use a method that will hurt the great teachers just as much as the poor ones.


They will simply draw lots to find out who has to go.


What does that say about the utter lack of hiring, firing and management power that our principals really have, and if they lack that power, why should we even HAVE principals?


Other bad choices include encouraging early retirement through costly accelerated pension vesting programs and buyouts. But those solutions take crucial veterans out of the teaching corps.


A widespread result of a cost-cutting order is a seniority staff shuffle. Look for the union label: in many district collective-bargaining contracts, the teacher's union, usually a unit of the National Education Association, refers to this practice as RIFing (Reduction In Force). The unions have made it a seniority issue.


In the typical elementary school, if a first grade teacher has higher seniority, that teacher will replace a fifth grade teacher with less seniority. Even though the curriculum and instruction requirements are more demanding in fifth grade than in first grade, and the students are often more difficult to handle, too, it doesn't matter, under union rules, if that fifth-grade teacher is good at teaching fifth grade. With less seniority, he or she has to go.


In high school, at least, the teachers have to be certified in specific fields before they RIF others. On the other hand, many districts circumvent this by allowing teachers to be in the process of getting certification, not necessarily having it. This is especially the case in special education.



Homework: Here's a typical union RIF policy out of Colorado:


By Susan Darst Williams School Management 10 2008


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