When School Must RIF
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
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
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.
a typical union RIF policy out of Colorado: