Editorial: Performance ought to be a factor in layoffs

Published 9:12 am Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Is it time to do away with teacher seniority as being the sole factor for determining who goes during school layoffs? We think so.

Supporters of the Albert Lea High School music program last spring were upset with district leaders for cutting a music teacher. The one who had to go was Peter Gepson, the popular high school band teacher who had been recruited away from Dodge Center.

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The Minnesota House of Representatives voted last week to do away with teacher tenure and implement a measure that gives administrators the authority to consider performance during rounds of layoffs. The vote began a conversation, but the actual legislation is unlikely to pass into law.

It’s a good conversation to have. Minnesota is one of about a dozen states that makes seniority that only factor. It would be wise if Education Minnesota, the teachers’ union, would take up the matter itself. Regulate yourself before state lawmakers do it for you.

A union’s mission should not be the preservation of the status quo. A union’s mission should be continual betterment of the profession’s talent pool.

In turn, lawmakers need to recognize that the same scrutiny that calls for basing performance for layoffs rather than seniority should be said of other professions with public employees, whether they are police officers, firefighters, clerks or janitors. When layoffs need to be made, seniority can be a factor, but it ought not be the only factor. The decision also needs to include performance.

Unions used to lead this country in a direction better for all workers. They still can, if they know what’s good for them. After all, what hard-working public employee wants to work across the hall from a slacker who is getting paid the same or higher rate?