The education students deserve starts with great and diverse teachers.

The research is clear—when more teachers of color are in the classroom, all students thrive. Educators of color deliver:

  • greater classroom engagement
  • higher academic achievement
  • increased cross-cultural interactions


of public-school teachers identify as people of color


of all public schools do not have a single teacher of color

Yet while more than half of all public-school students identify as people of color, only 20% of teachers do. In 40% of all public schools, students do not have a single teacher of color.

Read the paper: “So All Students Thrive: Rethinking Layoff Policy To Protect Teacher Diversity”

School districts commonly use seniority—including ”Last In, First Out,” or LIFO—to determine which teachers to lay off. But LIFO is not an equitable policy: Because teachers who identify as people of color are more likely to be early in their careers than white teachers, they are also more likely to be let go. “So All Students Thrive” shows the urgent need to retain these educators and offers solutions for making sure our schools do so. Our students’ futures depend on it.

Read the paper

What’s at stake

LIFO forces schools to make layoff decisions without regard for the needs of students.

Experience doesn’t guarantee effectiveness in the classroom. Research tells us that a seniority-based system not only disproportionately lays off teachers of color, but that it disproportionately impacts urban schools predominantly serving students of color. With diverse teachers in their classrooms, students are

  • more likely to complete high school and go to college
  • more likely to be referred to gifted programs
  • less likely to be suspended

I’m the only Black male teacher on staff at my school. Regardless of whether I work directly with a student, they know my name. I impact them just through my presence.

Mark Morrison, Fourth Grade Teacher, Stratford, CT

Our students are magnificent beacons of light. And they deserve to have teachers of color—all students deserve to have teachers of color in their classrooms. We need this in Minneapolis, and we need this around the country.

Arielle Sandoval Rocca, High School Educator, Minneapolis

Seniority should not be the only factor considered

Laying off effective teachers because they are less senior leads to lower academic achievement. Many of our strongest teachers—including several state and district Teachers of the Year—have lost their jobs because of LIFO policies. LIFO isn’t only harming students. It’s damaging the quality of the teaching profession and eroding the foundations of our public school system.

The Wins


See how E4E-MN members made history by leveraging their union to modify teacher contracts and protect teachers of color from seniority-based layoffs.

Read more


See how a coalition successfully advocated for the passage of an Oregon law that added protections for teachers who have cultural and linguistic expertise from LIFO-based layoffs.

Read more
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Prohibit seniority as sole or primary factor

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Permit seniority-based layoff system

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Require layoff of nontenured teachers first

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Require seniority-based layoff system

More than experience

We’re not advocating for the elimination of experience as a criterion for teacher retention. We believe experience is important—but that it should be just one of the ways of determining who’s teaching our kids. Other states and districts have already begun to consider additional factors, including:

Cultural or linguistic expertise

Why It Matters

This research-based criteria reflects the importance of serving historically underserved students as well as diversity across broader measures. These teachers are often teaching high-need subject areas; a white teacher who speaks Spanish would also qualify for this type of exemption.


Teachers from 
“Grow Your Own” Certification Programs

Why It Matters

Local, “Grow Your Own” teacher preparation programs work to strengthen the diversity of the teaching workforce and enable districts to address broader staffing challenges; this measure also prioritizes community connection and a key strategy for pipeline/recruitment efforts.


Unique skills or other contributions to the school

Why It Matters

Protecting teachers with unique skills or other contributions to the school includes formal activities such as club leadership or athletic coaching, but it could almost certainly include the extra, more informal work we know teachers of color are asked to do to support students of color every day that researchers call the “invisible tax.”


“Hard to staff” positions and schools

Why It Matters

The opposite of what usually happens with seniority-based layoffs; students in hard-to-staff schools deserve, and stand to gain the most from, continuity. This could also counter shortages concentrated in subject areas such as science, math, foreign language, English as a second language, special education, and more.


Teachers from underrepresented populations

Why It Matters

Research demonstrates the benefits to students of having teachers who look like them, particularly those from underrepresented backgrounds.