ST. PAUL, Minn – The Minnesota House of Representatives passed legislation last week giving local schools more control over policies regarding teacher layoffs.
HF 1478, which requires school administrators and teachers unions to develop local plans and criteria regarding potential layoffs passed the House by a vote of 71-58. All House Democrats and five Republicans voted against the measure. Matt Bliss (R-Pennington), Dean Urdahl (R-Grove City), Tony Cornish (R-Vernon Center), Keith Franke (R-St. Paul Park), and Greg Davids (R-Preston) broke with Republicans to vote against the measure.
The new legislation replaces the layoff policy mandated by the state of Minnesota known as Last In – First Out (LIFO). LIFO requires layoffs to occur according to a teacher’s seniority unless an alternative layoff agreement has been negotiated at the local level between the school board and the union.
Rep. Eric Lucero (R-Dayton) said in a statement, “I believe removing the default LIFO policy will better position teachers and school districts to protect high quality teachers by ensuring local level layoff decisions the greater opportunity to factor additional considerations beyond simply laying teachers off based on their date of hire.”
The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports Republicans have wanted school leaders to consider factors other than seniority when making staffing decisions, as they tried to pass similar legislation in 2012, but the efforts have been mostly blocked by Democrats. Republican legislators argue the seniority-based system does not allow administrators to retain the most effective teachers and prevents new people from entering the profession for fear of losing their jobs if schools are forced to layoff staff.
Democrats argue the state mandated LIFO policy protects experienced, higher salaried teachers and reduces the chances of discrimination.
Rep. Jenifer Loon (R-Eden Prairie), the chief sponsor of the bill, told The Pioneer Press the state faces a growing shortage of educators in key subjects like math, science and special education. Loon said minimizing the role seniority plays in staffing decision is essential if the state is going to attract new teachers. “We have a problem attracting and keeping new teachers. No wonder. If you are good at your job and you’ve demonstrated that in your work, it means absolutely nothing in a layoff situation,” Loon said. She states that under the current system, young teachers would be vulnerable to losing their jobs because of their lack of time and experience in their positions.
The teachers union, Education Minnesota, says the bill is a distraction from the challenges schools face and will lead to unnecessary and time-consuming negotiations, reports the Pioneer Press.
The Minnesota Senate passed a similar bill in 2012 by a vote of 36 to 26, where Sen. Terri Bonoff (D-Minnetonka) joined with Republicans on passing the legislation eventually vetoed by Governor Mark Dayton.