Volume 80, Number 43 | March 24 - 30, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Talking Point

LIFO attack isn’t about better education, but the bottom line

By Deborah J. Glick

Our community has seen school overcrowding increase with every passing year. Class size continues to increase and the number of parents who are able to send their children to the school of their choice has decreased. More school seats are needed and more teachers need to be hired. Yet instead of figuring out how to solve this problem, the mayor has created a diversionary tactic with Last In, First Out (LIFO). The mayor’s time would be more constructively spent arguing for appropriate support to the city for its many needs.

The basis of the mayor’s argument for this initiative is being driven by advertising that implies we are awash in old — and therefore ineffective — teachers, rather than an open and honest debate on the value of experience. The mayor certainly has always valued his experience, but somehow can’t translate that notion to anyone else. In fact it was the mayor’s experience that purportedly motivated him to run for an unprecedented third term. Yet when it comes to teachers, experience apparently has the opposite effect. Is there any other profession where workers are considered less qualified after gaining more experience? Furthermore, the simple fact is that only 15.6 percent of teachers have more than 20 years of experience — and if you include teachers who have taught for at least 15 years, that number only goes up to 26.9 percent. Yet according to the mayor these teachers are dragging down the entire system with their inability and ineffectiveness.

Clearly, seasoned teachers have already left the system in droves. Those that remain are paid at a higher salary, commensurate with their experience, something that every working person assumes is his or her due. A teacher works hard for years, gets compensated for this work and then gets fired. Is this the new American value we are all expected to embrace? In actuality, the argument about LIFO is a budget argument not a talent argument.

LIFO is a red herring intended to divert the public’s attention from the new rubric of accountability that is only to apply — it seems — to teachers who are not in a position to impact the overall direction of the school system. Last year, we all learned that the dramatic educational gains trumpeted by the Bloomberg administration were substantially a mirage. The administration’s response is to go on the attack and not accept responsibility, which is the first step in accountability.

We have been witness to the unremitting attacks on teachers, further eroding their ability to be effective. Once students see adults bashing teachers there is no question that it has an impact on the level of respect that these students will give their teachers. In other countries, where we have been told students are outpacing us, teachers still have the respect that past generations were told teachers deserved. It’s time to get back to the notion of the public good being a shared enterprise, in which we value people for their skills, and work together to create an environment in which learning is given the highest priority, and the improved test scores will follow. LIFO won’t solve our education woes — in fact, it’s just another symptom of our problems.

Glick is assemblymember for the 66th District

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