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The Inequitable Effects of Teacher Layoffs

Widespread teacher layoffs, like those resulting from the Great Recession, have several negative repercussions that include equity implications for students, teachers, and schools. In a recent working paper published by the Annenberg Institute at Brown University, authors Matthew A. Kraft and Joshua Bleiberg explore the literature on teacher layoffs during the Great Recession and outline policy recommendations that draw on the evidence to minimize the need for layoffs and address equity concerns.

The paper reviews research that demonstrated that teacher layoffs from the Great Recession negatively affected student achievement, undermined teacher workforce diversity, and disproportionately impacted students of color and those from low-income families. Specific policies, such as seniority-based decisions, resulted in more layoffs among teachers of color as they are more likely to be in their early careers than their White counterparts. Disadvantaged students are more likely to be taught by early career teachers, a contributing factor in the disproportionate impact on these students. Compounding that, less affluent districts that often serve more disadvantaged students are often faced with larger budget cuts and resulting layoffs.

Moving forward after Covid-19, Kraft and Bleiberg outline policy solutions at the federal, state, and district levels. These include the federal government creating a stabilization fund for districts to avoid layoffs during economic downturns; states passing laws to change seniority-based layoff policies; and districts exploring alternative ways to reduce personnel expenditures through wage freezes or furloughs, rather from layoffs.

-By Bella DiMarco