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Education Commissioner David Steiner refuses to back LIFO repeal

New York Post | 02.16.11

 
The following editorial appeared in the New York Post on February 16, 2011:

Leave it to Shelly Silver's hand-crafted education-policy team to throw up a roadblock to the repeal of the seniority-based teacher-layoff law.

State Education Commissioner David Steiner, handpicked last year by Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, made it crystal clear yesterday that he wants no part of the "Last in, first out" fight.

Yes, both Steiner and Tisch -- herself Silver's personal pick for chancellor -- say they're crafting a plan that will make LIFO "a moot point."

Two years or so down the line, that is.

Which suits Silver -- and the teachers unions to which he answers -- just fine, thank you very much.

The Steiner-Tisch approach does nothing to address the fact that budget shortfalls mean Mayor Bloomberg will soon be laying off thousands of teachers.

And neither one is willing to endorse Bloomberg's call for the Legislature to repeal LIFO -- which is a statutory requirement that must be rolled back, regardless of whether DOE's ratings system is put into place.

Instead, Steiner and Tisch are proposing a set of teacher-evaluation guidelines they claim would make seniority issues "a thing of the past."

They want to institute a "comprehensive annual evaluation system for teachers and principals" that would lead to an "expedited disciplinary process" for those who continue to be rated ineffective after two consecutive evaluations.

"We think that's the right way to go," Steiner testified yesterday at a legislative budget hearing.

Wrong, said New York City Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott, testifying in the same hearing: " 'Last in, first out' and teacher evaluation are two different things."

Certainly, the Steiner scheme wouldn't render LIFO "moot" -- and even if it did, it's years away.

Not so the teacher layoffs.

They begin this summer -- and unless LIFO is repealed, they'll be done on the basis of a single standard: Last hired, first fired.

With the result that many bright, young, energetic and innovative teachers will be sent home in favor of long-tenured teachers, not a few of whom shouldn't even be in a classroom to begin with.

What Steiner and Tisch are doing isn't just punting the issue -- it's a conscious effort to divert attention from the immediate, pressing need, driven by New York's dire finances.

The problem is short-term, not long-term -- and the solution is clear.

Repeal LIFO.

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