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A Slam Dunk Opportunity for School District Hiring

Imagine if the NBA chose to solve its budget woes by laying off its most junior players regardless of performance. Rajon Rondo, All-Star for the Boston Celtics but only a four-year veteran, would be gone. Highly-effective yet green superstars, including Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose would be fired, too. The downsizing would also mean no room for new players and, consequently, the NBA Draft would be canceled. The heroes from March’s college basketball tournament would either have to try a different profession or dribble in their living rooms.

 

This will not happen anytime soon in basketball, but this is the reality in many schools and districts, as described by a recent New York Times article. Across the country, thousands of teachers have lost their jobs after a few years of service. Plus, prospective teachers who have recently graduated have found that legions have applied for the few available jobs, which often pay little.

 

Districts have an opportunity to capitalize on this hiring situation and invest in teaching quality. One can argue that determining a teacher’s effectiveness in a classroom is more difficult than determining a ball player’s prowess on the court. Still, at a minimum, districts should find a way to layoff based on performance, even if imperfectly measured. Second, they can take advantage of a strong hiring pool filled with All-Stars who have been laid off from other districts based on seniority—even if that means cutting beyond what they need just to balance the budget. The more agile charter schools will presumably employ these strategies, and districts would greatly benefit by finding a way to do the same.

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