An Open Debate About Teacher Staffing

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every parent knows that the most important aspect of a child's education is the teacher who heads up the classroom.

that is why we are very concerned that, with the state budget gap, there is talk of laying off public school teachers. east side assembly member jonathan bing, one of the good guys in albany, is trying to refine the state's approach to layoffs. his proposal would allow a panel of teachers, principals and administrators to decide whom to downsize. although bing would still allow seniority to factor into any decision, his plan has come under attack because that aspect would no longer be the central factor in cutting staff.

it's reasonable not to agree with bing's idea (the teacher's union contends that this may be used as a way to fire the most expensive teachers), but the current policy of "last hired, first fired," which gives senior teachers priority during staffing cutbacks, doesn't take into account a particular school's needs, or the capabilities of newer teachers. if layoffs progress according to this plan, bing has said that district 2 on the east side and downtown would lose almost 20 percent of its teaching force.

while we're not sure the panel approach is the answer, we do know that a conversation should be started about the right way to trim teaching staff, keeping the interests of students first. laying off teachers is not a step that anyone wants to take, but smart, conscientious and independent legislators like bing should not be afraid to advance ideas in this debate.

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