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Newark Parents Request Appeal of Dismissal of LIFO Lawsuit

newark nj Niko ReyNiko Nieves

Newark NJ, by  Niko ReyNiko Nieves

May 25,2017

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Trenton NJ , A group of Newark parents yesterday filed a formal request to appeal a trial court judge’s dismissal earlier this month of their lawsuit challenging the state’s “last in, first out” teacher layoff law. Filed last November, the parents’ lawsuit asserts that the LIFO statute violates students’ right to an education by unjustly requiring school districts to retain ineffective teachers while cutting other areas of education spending or laying off more effective teachers when faced with funding deficits.

Defendants from Newark Public Schools (NPS) and the State of New Jersey did not move to dismiss the case. Instead, NPS admitted nearly every allegation made about the impact of New Jersey’s LIFO law on children within NPS. The motions to dismiss the case granted earlier this month were raised by intervening defendants from local and national teachers unions, including the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), and the Newark Teachers Union (NTU).

If the parents’ request for appeal is granted, arguments from the Newark families and the teachers unions will be reviewed by a panel of four judges from the Appellate Division of New Jersey Superior Court.

“Public schools are here to educate our children, first and foremost,” said Wendy Soto, plaintiff and mother of two Newark Public School students. “Everyone knows that many New Jersey school districts are in a serious funding crisis. Politicians have not protected our children’s right to a quality public education, and parents like me have nowhere to turn. The quality-blind LIFO law makes a difficult situation even worse for students in struggling schools. Enough is enough. It’s time to end this ridiculous law.”

“New Jersey’s LIFO law forces school districts like Newark to retain ineffective teachers and, in fact, put them back in the classroom while cutting spending to other critical areas of public education. Students are constitutionally entitled to more than this,” said Kathleen Reilly, attorney with Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer, one of the firms representing the Newark parents pro bono. “These decisions – made to evade application of the LIFO law – harm children. The negative impact of LIFO is pervasive today in Newark public schools and these families deserve to have their case heard in court.”

Since at least 2012, NPS has avoided laying off effective teachers by paying millions of dollars per year to cover the salaries of ineffective – but more senior – teachers even when no school would agree to their placement in the school. This expensive work-around, which is costing the district $10 million dollars in 2016-17, diverts valuable resources from educational programming and other critical components of an adequate public education. Because NPS employs more than half of the state’s ineffective teachers, it also puts Newark students at significant risk of being assigned to an ineffective teacher.

After it was announced that New Jersey State education funding would remain essentially flat for the 2017-18 school year, NPS acknowledged a looming $30 million deficit because of rising costs. Facing similar budget gaps over the past three years, NPS administrators restricted hiring practices, forcing teachers previously without placement into schools without mutual consent from the teacher and the principal. Research shows that teacher quality is the most influential in-school factor when it comes to student learning. It also shows that student achievement improves when principals are allowed to hire school staff according to quality and fit, rather than restricted by seniority.

To learn more about the parent-led lawsuit to end LIFO in New Jersey, please go to edjustice.org/nj. All legal filings related to the lawsuit are available online here.

About Partnership for Educational Justice (PEJ)
Founded in 2014, Partnership for Educational Justice is a nonprofit organization pursuing impact litigation that empowers families and communities to advocate for great public schools through the courts. In addition to supporting teacher layoff litigation in New Jersey, PEJ is currently working with parents and students in New York and Minnesota in support of legal challenges to unjust teacher employment statutes in those states.

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