Prior to 2022, Oregon state law required districts to use seniority to make layoff decisions, also known as “last- in, first- out” (LIFO); given this state requirement, modifying policy required change at the state level.
To achieve this state level policy change, Stand for Children Oregon (Stand) launched a successful public advocacy campaign, focused attention on the state investment that had been made in diversifying the teaching force, developed key partnerships across the state, identified a legislative champion, and used Oregon’s robust data systems in order to elevate their campaign for changing layoff policies to value teachers with cultural or linguistic expertise.
Oregon law now has added cultural or linguistic expertise as a priority to seniority when teacher layoffs occur, defining it as:
• Speaking an in-district language (e.g. teachers who speak Spanish in a school where many students speak Spanish),
• Completing a teacher pathway program that has a focus of graduating culturally or linguistically diverse teachers, or
• Working at a school where 25% of the student population consists of students from a historically underserved background.
As Oregon made headway in diversifying its workforce, if layoffs occurred, the newer teachers—and by extension, the teachers of color— would be let go first. With this in mind, they began to organize stakeholders and policymakers to modify the layoff approach.
— Excerpt, Oregon Case Study
How to approach this work in your state
Advocacy groups must support the public in understanding if and how state law mandates layoff decisions. HB001 provides one example of policy language that can be used to protect groups of teachers who are crucial to students having teachers who represent them. To start this work, advocates should identify the state- level policy that needs to change, review it and do the following:
Advocacy groups must support the public in understanding if and how state law mandates layoff decisions. The first step is to find out your state policy on teacher layoffs. Oregon is one example of policy language that can be used to protect groups of teachers that are crucial to students having teachers who represent them. To start this work, advocates should identify the state level policy that needs to change, review it, and consider some of the following:
• Determine what factors—cultural or linguistic diversity, hard to staff schools and subject areas, grow your own programs, or something else—should be prioritized in your community
• Know and share the data – collect and uplift research around the investment in teachers of color at the state and local level
• If possible, begin to quantify the potential impact of declining student enrollment and shrinking budgets on the size of the teacher workforce
• Identify and engage a legislative champion
• Draft changes to state law utilizing state and district examples
• Engage legal support to review language
• Organize state and local partners to support in the work, including parent and teacher groups
• Contact advocates who have engaged in this work to align with others in these efforts- one way to do this is by joining E4E’s advocacy efforts here.