Teachers union agreement stipulating White teachers be laid off first criticized: 'Constitutionally suspect'

An agreement between the Minneapolis teachers union and school district states that White teachers and staff will be laid off first, regardless of seniority

An agreement between the Minneapolis teachers union and the Minneapolis Public Schools which stipulates that White teachers will be laid off before teachers of color, regardless of their seniority, violates the Civil Rights Act, as well as the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution, several critics warned. 

"The first thing is that this contract violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Equal Protection Clause under the U.S. Constitution," Heritage Foundation fellow Jonathan Butcher told Fox News Digital. "This is, I think, political posturing. It is not dealing with the most important issue which is helping students right now with math and reading."

"I think they should be looking for high quality teachers regardless of the color of their skin," he added.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. 

MINNEAPOLIS TEACHERS UNION AGREEMENT STIPULATES WHITE TEACHERS BE LAID OFF FIRST, REGARDLESS OF SENIORITY

The agreement was reached earlier this year to end a two-week strike in the Minneapolis Public School district. 

The agreement between the union and school district which stipulate White teachers be laid off before teachers of color was included in the proposed agreement. 

The agreement between the union and school district which stipulate White teachers be laid off before teachers of color was included in the proposed agreement.  ((Photo by Kerem Yucel/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images))

Historically, teacher furloughs and layoffs have been done on a first-in, last-out basis, and Manhattan Institute adjunct fellow Michael Hartney said that policy "doesn’t make any sense either." 

Hartney noted that unions have historically been criticized for their first-in, last-out policy because it does not take into account teacher effectiveness, but the new policy, prioritizing race, is "constitutionally suspect." 

"They’re substituting one crude criteria of seniority for another crude criteria of race," Hartney said. 

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He also highlighted the irony of the union’s agreement, pointing out a quote from a former national union president when, in the 1980s, a federal judge allowed a school in Boston to fire White teachers first in order to meet a racial balance requirement. 

Former American Federation of Teachers President Albert Shanker said, "it will be the first time in U.S. history that a federal court, acting in the name of the Constitution, has ruled that people must lose their job on the basis of race." 

Critics argue a policy in Minneapolis that could lay off White teachers before those of color, regardless of seniority, violates the Civil Rights Act. 

Critics argue a policy in Minneapolis that could lay off White teachers before those of color, regardless of seniority, violates the Civil Rights Act.  (iStock)

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Catrin Wigfall, a policy fellow at Minnesota-based think tank Center for the American Experiment, said the policy spoke to a "worthy goal," but the approach was wrong. 

"While increasing teachers of color is a worthy goal, the layoff provision in the Minneapolis teachers’ union agreement with the district is a political solution that likely won’t stand up in court and is not good, long-term policy," she told Fox News Digital. "In fact, the whole last-in, first-out system should be thrown out, as it does a disservice to all young teachers who are qualified, excellent educators. The goal is worthy, but the approach is misplaced." 

Cristine Trooien, the Executive Director of the Minnesota Parents Alliance, criticized both the first-in, last-out system as well as laying off teachers based on race." 

"When it comes to staffing our schools, there are two practices that all but guarantee an erosion of the high-quality of instruction that every student deserves. [last-in, first-out] and using race as a basis for hiring and firing," Trooien told Fox News Digital.  "Adopting either of these misguided practices will undoubtedly lead to a righteous outcry from engaged parents and excellent teachers alike. Both need to be eliminated."

"Academic performance in the Minneapolis school district is abysmal. It is easier for district leadership to assign that ongoing failure to not having enough teachers of color than confronting the ineffective methodologies and curriculum being used," Trooien added. "The reason kids can’t read has nothing to do with their teacher’s skin color and everything to do with the instruction they’re receiving (or not receiving). It's a harder problem to solve. Sadly for Minneapolis students, the only thing that will likely increase as a result of the agreement between MPS and the teacher's union are the number of lawsuits that will be filed against the district for racist employment practices."

Angela Morabito, spokesperson for the Defense of Freedom Institute, said the agreement also violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, and the union should instead be focused on improving reading proficiency. 

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in any program or activity that receives federal funding.

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"By agreeing to this contract, the Minnesota Department of Education is running afoul of both the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution and the Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. Fewer than 1 in 3 of Minnesota’s minority 4th graders can read at grade level. If the union really cared about ‘equity,’ they would prioritize hiring the best and brightest to fix this educational crisis." 

interior of a school classroom with wooden desks and chairs. nobody around. 3d render

interior of a school classroom with wooden desks and chairs. nobody around. 3d render (istock)

While most school districts still use a first in, last out policy for layoffs, both Butcher and Hartney said they would not be surprised if other teachers unions begin to change their policies to reflect the agreement in Minneapolis. 

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"To remedy the continuing effects of past discrimination, Minneapolis Public Schools and the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT) mutually agreed to contract language that aims to support the recruitment and retention of teachers from underrepresented groups as compared to the labor market and to the community served by the school district," a spokesperson for the Minneapolis Public Schools told Fox News Digital. 

The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers did not respond to Fox News Digital's request for comment.