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Lay Off What’s Fair

Judge William F. Highberger, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge, ruled last week that teacher layoffs in 750 affected schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District, must, according to the Los Angeles Times, “be spread more equitably.” In other words, the use of seniority as the criterion for teacher layoffs must be restricted.

The LAUSD’s $400 million budget hole may threaten thousands of teaching positions.

Even if fiscal austerity were not a necessity or even at issue, the total war against the cornerstones of civil service and the bedrock of unionism would still be waged under a crazy quilt of different pretexts. Incendiary legislation is pending in many states, sparked by the ugly mischief of a gaggle of nefarious sponsors, to abolish not only seniority, but the remnants of tenure and the vestiges of due process.

Mayor Bloomberg, the cocky cock-and-bull governor across the Hudson, and sinister cohorts from the moneyed sectors have subscribed to the fallacy that job protections for teachers and constitutional rights of children are mutually exclusive. A teacher who needs not fear for his career every waking (and sometimes slumbering) moment is somehow a menace to kids, they conclude.

The Los Angeles Times said, on Jan. 22, that “A Times investigation last year found that seniority-based layoffs in the [L.A.] district has led to the dismissal of hundreds of highly effective teachers and fell hardest on schools in the city’s poorest neighborhoods. Far fewer layoffs would be necessary if the decisions were based on performance rather than seniority.”

The article does not make clear, or even hint at why fewer layoffs would be necessary. But, as commenter DianeT2 points out, “If they lay off a more experienced (higher paid) teacher, they can keep two new (lower paid) teachers. It’s not really about keeping the best teachers now; it’s about keeping the cheapest. Politicians and the media are just going to pretend it’s about teacher quality. And the public will follow.”

That’s the bitter truth. But it’s just part of a more malignant reality. Because even if there were a huge surplus, the murderous strategy of sabotage against the labor movement would persist unabated and as hysterical as ever.