With the United States suddenly in a recession, school districts will be thinking seriously about reducing their teaching workforces. On average, salaries account for about 80 percent of district spending, so layoffs may be an inevitable step when budgets must be cut.
For many, budget crises and potential layoffs may feel all too familiar. The long and severe 2008 recession led many districts to let teachers go. Even more teachers received a reduction-in-force or RIF notice—an advance warning issued to teachers whose jobs are at risk. Two federally funded district bailouts helped districts rescind many of the RIF notices, but still, one estimate indicated nearly 300,000 school employees lost their jobs.
During the 2008 recession, most districts generally put novice teachers at the top of the list for layoffs because leaders were following seniority rules baked into collective bargaining agreements or state statutes. Since 2008, however, 17 states have either prohibited basing layoffs on seniority alone or have mandated that districts take teacher performance into account.