The Disproportionate Impact of Seniority-Based Layoffs on Poor, Minority Students

May 2010

K-12 school districts that lay off teachers by seniority, a policy known as “last in, first out,” disproportionately affect the programs and students in their poorer and more minority schools than in their wealthier, less minority counterparts. Looking at the 15 largest districts in California, CRPE researchers found that teachers at risk of layoff are indeed concentrated in schools with more poor and minority students.

In these districts, if seniority-based layoffs are applied for teachers with up to two years’ experience, highest-poverty schools would lose some 30 percent more teachers than wealthier schools, and highest-minority schools would lose 60 percent more teachers than would schools with the fewest minority students. The analysis concludes: “Where districts seek to minimize the effects of budget reduction policies on students... it is clear that the disproportionate impact of seniority-based layoffs on high-poverty and high-minority schools must be considered.”