February 05, 2013 Print

Education Reforms Elsewhere

In Rhode Island, the Commissioner of Education notified school districts that teachers cannot be hired, transferred, or reassigned based on seniority alone, and districts that continue with those practices are violating state regulations.

In Washington, the practice of seniority being the sole determinant is almost universal. Well, in most districts seniority plus a coin toss when two employees have equal seniority rights.

In other words, the employee groups’ trust a coin toss more than they trust administrators to make decisions about the best placement of employees.

In the rest of the world, where one works and what workload one is assigned is determined by whoever signs the check. Not so in education.

For example, in Tacoma school leaders wanted to improve the chances that the most effective educators served the neediest students. The school board was willing to give levy-funded pay raises, but sought a slight accommodation to this strategy for improving services in the poorest areas of the district.

The union went on strike to preserve long-time educators’ ability to flee the schools which were harder to work in.

The practice of accommodating the self-interests of senior employees is a part of the culture of the monopoly education system which we cannot ignore. School boards and state lawmakers both have the power to address it.

Kudos to Rhode Island Commissioner for demonstrating the kind of leadership Washington has yet to experience.



Jami Lund

Senior Policy Analyst

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