Former MN Teacher of the Year Gets the Boot Under Last In, First Out System

School’s out early for Thomas Rademacher, the 2014 Minnesota Teacher of the Year.

Despite being awarded the state’s highest educational honor by MN’s largest teachers union (Education Minnesota) and then honored for the award by former President Obama, Rademacher recently lost his job under the Last In, First Out (LIFO) policy. 


Under this layoff system, seniority trumps effectiveness. Even though it shouldn’t. Rademacher had eight years of teaching experience under his belt at the Fine Arts Interdisciplinary Resources (FAIR) magnet school in downtown Minneapolis when he received the award. He left the classroom to finish his teaching manifesto but went back to teaching this year at the FAIR School in Crystal. Because he was in his first year in a new district, a budget crisis put Rademacher on the chopping block.

Rademacher blamed the loss of his job on the LIFO policy adopted by most schools. The Last In, First Out policy gives preference to teachers with seniority, the more years worked by a teacher at a school, the greater the job security. Rademacher, who taught at a different school than the one he received his award with, was on the chopping block since he started teaching at the school only a year prior.

Rademacher, who taught English to grades six through twelve, made a shocking announcement on Twitter [on April 3, 2017]:

“If anyone knows of good English positions next year, please let me know. I lost mine today to budget gremlins.” 

Teacher layoffs resulting from budget cuts are not uncommon. But dismissals should not be entirely based on seniority. According to the Star Tribune’s Editorial Board, the Last In, First Out system “hurts Minnesota schools and students” and doesn’t help school officials “retain talented, effective educators who are more recent hires.”

The union rewarded Rademacher for his commitment to excellence. But his perceived effectiveness wasn’t enough to save his job from a seniority-based system. 

The MN House passed a bill in March to change the layoff policy. The bill wouldn’t prevent school leaders from considering a teacher’s experience when making staff reductions, because experience does matter. It would, however, limit seniority from being the only consideration. Which would have prevented the union’s 2014 Teacher of the Year winner from losing his job. 

But Education Minnesota wrote the bill off as “a distraction from the true challenges schools face.” If the challenges include the teacher shortage problem, here’s a solution that was not included in its Educator Policy Innovation Center’s proposed solutions: Change the dismissal policy that lays off effective teachers and doesn’t help attract new teachers to the classroom. 

The last thing highly qualified teachers should worry about is whether or not their effectiveness will be undermined by a seniority-based system kept in place by union control.