Ohio

Eye on Education

Schools Use Coin Toss to Decide Who Gets Laid Off

Duif du Toit / Gallo Images/Getty Images

Heads you stay, tails you go.

In making decisions about who gets laid off, it’s common for Ohio school union contracts to call for a coin toss.

We first heard about this from the Buckeye Institute, which reports that the union contract for Westerville aides, secretaries and study hall monitors calls for layoffs to be made “in inverse order of seniority.”

But if two or more staff members have the same level of seniority, the tie can be broken by a coin toss:

Section (A)(1) of Article XII, found on page 36 of the 71-page agreement, states
“If two or more unit members have identical seniority the tie will be broken in the following order:
a. By date of hire on the Board’s agenda.
b. By date of the notification letter of hire.
c. By coin flip. The Association shall be present for any coin flip to break a tie.”

Other Ohio school support-staff contracts have similar clauses. Lakeview, for example, uses a coin toss as the final word in determining who has seniority, and thus an edge in holding onto his or her job. The union contract even specifies the tosser and the caller:

The President shall toss the coin. The employee whose last name is first alphabetically shall call the toss of the coin.

Some districts go the random selection route for teachers, too.

In Bowling Green, for example, if tenured teachers were formally hired on the same date, they use a lottery to break the tie and determine who has seniority.

Not Westerville though.

For Westerville teachers, years of service is the major factor in determining who gets laid off. But to break a tie, the union contract calls for using total years of service (basically adding up any past educational or military work), the date the board formally hired each person and “performance and qualifications.”

The picture for teachers is changing.

The 2011 state budget lets school districts give preference to tenured teachers in determining the order of layoffs. But after that, schools are supposed to look at performance evaluations, and seniority can only be used as a tiebreaker.
The Buckeye Institute says making employment decisions at random isn’t a good idea:

It is absurd that Lady Luck can have more of an influence on layoffs than employee performance and the judgment of education officials.

But public unions support using seniority to determine the order of layoffs because it’s “an objective yardstick, free from the influence of favoritism.” And they say if seniority is your only yardstick, you have to have some way to break the tie.

Comments

  • Duckmonkeyman

    Why not? Lady Luck is used in business all the time – lucky to be related to the boss, lucky to be under 40, lucky to know the right people. At least a coin toss gives a fair outcome. For the Buckeye Institute to suggest “officials” are qualified and impartial is misleading.

About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »

Economy
Education