Ending LIFO, not as divisive as some would let on

The saga continues…

While many folks remain at odds over addressing the issues of collective bargaining, tenure reform and other reform issues in public education, it is not quite as divisive an issue as some in the arguments might try to lead you to believe.  Actually, ending LIFO – a.k.a. Last In, First Out – has made for some strange bedfellows in the debate.

An interesting guest column was penned by Dr. Michael Lomax, President and CEO of the United Negro College Fund, and Michelle Rhee, CEO & Founder of StudentsFirst.org and, formerly, Chancellor of the Washington D.C. public schools, in the May 13th issue of the Commercial Appeal.

While these co-authors of this particular article do not always agree – even referring to themselves as “the odd couple of education reform” – on the issues, they have found points of harmony, rather than contention, on the topic of abolishing of LIFO:

    • “Tennessee has been a leader in adopting education reforms that make sense for kids. It should continue to do the right thing and get rid of archaic tenure practices.”
    • “When times are tough, as they are now, and schools need to reduce their teacher rolls, the importance of teachers in our children’s education demands that we keep the best.”
    • “Your employees are your most important assets. So if some have to go, which ones do you keep? You save the best.”
    • “Research shows there is not a single school-based factor that has more of an impact on student learning than the quality of a child’s teacher.”
    • “Tennessee is not alone in relying on this archaic practice (LIFO). It’s done across the country. But in recent years, Tennessee has been a leader among the states in adopting education reforms that make sense for kids. The state should continue to do the right thing in this case.”
    • “As in other states, schools across Tennessee are facing budget shortfalls, and our children are at imminent risk of losing some of their best teachers.”
    • “Change is necessary. The status quo simply isn’t good enough.”
    • “We can’t change the past, but we can change our children’s future, if we act quickly. Time is of the essence.”
    • “There’s still time to pass legislation to save great teachers. Our children deserve the best — including the best teachers.”

Why would we not want the best teachers educating our children?  Basing teacher retention solely on seniority runs entirely counter-productive to ensuring we provide our children with the best learning opportunities possible. 

But, that is not the way it is done currently in Tennessee.  Recently hired teachers that have demonstrated an ability to help their students, our children, achieve more are the first personnel cut with LIFO, so as to retain underperforming, yet entrenched, tenured teachers, when layoffs roll around.

Can you explain the logic of that to me?  I realize that school systems are inundated with politics and some principals may plav favorites with some, while exercising reprisal against others.  That is why any true education reform has to focus on more than just teachers.

If the focus does not take into account all the players in the equation, student, teacher, administrator and parents, it is an exercise in futility and nothing more. While teachers would be held accountable for moving their students forward, administrators must be able to validate their hiring and retention decisions, based on hard data of achievment, decline, etc. Students and parents own a significant stake in this equation too. Students must be held accountable for actually putting forth a genuine effort to engage in their own education. Parents, as the custodian of the student, must make sure their child is engaging in his/her own education and keeping lines of communication open with the teachers and administrators.

Anything less than this and we are just chasing our tails. It’s going to have to be an all or nothing. And, as Dr. Lomax and Ms. Rhee noted, “Change is necessary. The status quo simply isn’t good enough.”

** Views in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the JCGOP.

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One Comment on “Ending LIFO, not as divisive as some would let on”


  1. […] teachers to go by the wayside and keep teachers for quality, not seniority. By doing that we can have the best and brightest moving our children […]


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