2011-04-01 / Editorial/Opinion

Why Is Experience Under Fire?

Pick up a newspaper or watch television and you will see Mayor Michael Bloomberg-sponsored ads attacking the teacher seniority rules. All across the nation, right-wing critics and left-wing elitists alike are challenging the civil service laws and the last in-first out rules that obtain in most venues. Why, all of a sudden have municipal workers such as teachers become demons – the problem rather than part of the solution? In most of the ads and commercials, experience is demeaned as if it were somehow evil. “We can’t keep teachers just because they have seniority, we need the best teachers,” most of the ads and commercials trumpet. Why is experience under fire? For example, when you go looking for a surgeon, you look for a doctor who has done the procedure you need hundreds of times. You don’t look for the eager youngster who has never done the procedure before but has lots of enthusiasm. When you need an attorney, you look for somebody with the expertise you need to win your case. Would you rather have Sully Sullivan as the pilot of your plane or a pilot who is at the controls for the first time? We know the answers to those questions. Why, then, are new teachers inherently better than experienced teachers? The answer is, they are not. Of course, some older teachers have “burned out,” and some new teachers are wonderful. That does not mean, however, that we should sweep out the seniority rules that have obtained since 1940, when the state legislature enacted senior based layoff laws. The laws were put on the books to ensure that hiring and layoff decisions were fair and objective. That need has not changed. Many principals are drooling over the idea of laying off all of their senior teachers, many of whom are making upwards of $90,000, not because they are poor teachers, but because the principals can then turn around and hire two or three new teachers at the same cost. Don’t think that won’t happen across the board. We urge our legislators to stand fast against the anti-teacher ad blitz and refuse to end the long-standing seniority rules.

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