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Teacher layoff reform bill dies in Legislature

A proposal to base teacher layoffs on performance - and not seniority - has died in the Washington legislature. The bill's demise is a victory for the state’s teacher's union, but a frustrating defeat for some lawmakers. 

Currently, when school districts reduce staff newer more junior teachers typically lose their jobs first. A bipartisan proposal in the Washington legislature would have changed that.

Instead of years in the classroom, lay-offs would have been based on a teacher's last two performance evaluations.

State Representative Reuven Carlyle, a Seattle Democrat, was one of the co-sponsors. He argues the time was right for a new approach:

"We're going to lay-off hundreds and hundreds of teachers likely in this budget for next year. It's a mistake, in my personal view to do so on one criteria only which is seniority based."

But the bill faced opposition from principals, superintendents and school boards not to mention the Washington Education Association.

Union spokesman Rich Wood says the message to lawmakers was: focus on how to protect school funding and leave the decision on how to layoff teachers to local districts.

The conversation about seniority-based layoffs has been among the issues in the forefront of education reform nationally and locally in recent years. 

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.