Survey finds support for reforming teacher layoff policies

Three of four likely voters in California support ending the seniority-based, teacher-layoff policy, a new survey released Thursday showed.

Nearly 80 percent of those polled support reforms that would replace the current policy, known as last in, first out,' according to results of the survey, conducted May 18-23 for StudentsFirst, a Sacramento-based non-profit organization led by former D.C. chancellor Michelle Rhee.

In addition, the survey found that 7 out of 10 likely voters agree the quality of education in California is not as high as in other states in the U.S., with nearly half of respondents strongly agreeing with this statement.

Conducted by the Glover Park Group, the California Education Policy Survey polled more than 805 likely voters throughout California and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.

The survey, which included an oversampling of more than 250 Hispanic and 250 African American voters in California - with a margin of error of plus or minus 6 .2 percent - showed even stronger support among these constituencies for eliminating seniority-based layoffs.

More than 84 percent of Hispanics and 83 percent of African Americans favor ending seniority-based layoffs, while only 13 percent and 12 percent, respectively, oppose such reforms.

Californians clearly believe we need to do a better job of educating our children and they also overwhelmingly favor common sense reforms that ensure we have great teachers teaching our kids," said Rhee, founder and CEO of StudentsFirst in a statement. "All our kids deserve great teachers, and the bottom line is that we are losing too many good teachers in too many schools due to an outdated bureaucratic policy that rewards seniority over performance."

The majority of likely voters surveyed said they believe increased funding, hiring and keeping good quality teachers, and being able to get bad teachers out of the classroom are the most important things California can do to improve the quality of education.

When queried, those surveyed were presented a list of reforms based on recommendations issued by the Legislative Analyst's office. They were:

End current state law requiring that seniority be the only factor considered when teachers must be laid off, and instead require evaluations of teacher quality to guide layoff decisions;

Establish a teacher evaluation system that takes into account student growth and achievement; a teacher's special training, certifications and licenses; any record of misconduct; and a teacher's other significant contributions to the school.

- Move back the deadline by which teachers must be notified of potential layoffs from March 15th to June 1, so that such decisions can be made with better knowledge of the budget outlook for the coming year.

In addition to a record of misconduct, the majority of likely voters also said they believe student performance, as well as input from students, parents and principals, should be major factors in determining teacher layoffs. How long a teacher has been working for the district was at the bottom of the list.