???It should not be illegal for schools to try and keep great teachers during tough economic times.??? As commonsensical as this sounds, an important new policy brief from The New Teacher Project (TNTP) reports that 14 states actually have laws on the books that force quality-blind layoffs.

Ohio is one of these states and we've seen firsthand how damaging this law is and how damaging it will likely be in coming months as the state grapples with cutting $8 billion from its next biennial budget.

Because state law in Ohio, dating back to 1941, requires that the last teacher in be the first one out, younger and less-expensive teachers must depart during times of layoffs. We wrote about the madness of this law in 2007 when Dayton's ???Teacher of the Year??? was given the award with one hand and his layoff notice with the other. These sorts of quality blind layoffs now face districts across Ohio and other states as they face massive budget deficits.

The New Teacher Project reports that such archaic laws threaten 79,000 more teachers across the country who ???would lose their jobs if budget cuts forces districts nationwide to reduce salary expenditures by 5 percent through seniority-based layoffs rather than seniority-neutral layoffs.??? This means several thousand fewer teachers in Ohio being dismissed if there was a focus on teacher effectiveness rather than solely on seniority.

Senate Bill 5, currently being debated noisily across Ohio would require teacher layoffs to be based on merit rather than seniority. While the layoff language in the bill could be improved, it puts Ohio on a path similar to where Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, New York, and Washington are heading. It is a change these states all need to make for, as TNTP notes, ???Layoffs are always an option of last resort. But when they cannot be avoided, school districts and states should do everything possible to protect the highest-need students and most effective teachers???Teacher seniority should be a factor in layoffs ??? just not the only one. A teacher's actual performance in the classroom should always matter most.???

States need to kill off once and for all ???Last In/First Out??? laws for teachers and with brutal funding cuts coming, now is the time to do it.

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