The district did not present a proper
legal opinion from any lawyer to support the 2004 teacher realignment. The Board and its staff lawyer simply asserted that,
per the strand decision, the district was obligated to do the realignment the way that they did it.
The Strand Decision
required the Minneapolis school district to preserve the employment of tenured teachers, to lay off tenured teachers in order
of seniority (last-hired, first fired), and to reassign high seniority teachers, involuntarily if necessary, to ensure
the district could fire the last-hired teachers. The status of probationary teachers was not addressed in the Strand Decision.
Presumably all of the probationary teachers had been laid off in that situation.
On the other hand, in determining
which probationary teacher to lay off in a particular case, seniority would be a factor. However, when it comes to preserving
the employment of probationary teachers, there is no precedent for preserving the employment of probationary teachers in one
licensure area at the expense of probationary teachers in another licensure area, and "realigning" tenured teachers to accomplish
I have argued that the 2004 teachers realignment was illegal due to the fact that it was done to preserve
the employment of probationary teachers in regular Ed programs at the expense of probationary teachers in special Ed programs.
In 2004 the district sent lay off notices to 608 teachers, including 455 probationary teachers and 153 tenured teachers. The
2004-2005 budget projected a reduction of about 210 teaching positions compared to the 2003-2004 budget. That is a part of
the story that did not come out in articles published in the Star Tribune.
There was not anything on the order of 140 to 200 tenured
teachers who couldn't be kept on the payroll without realigning other teachers. Of the teachers getting lay off notices
and holding positions in elementary education, 92 were tenured (three-fifths of all the tenured teachers who got lay off notices)
and 48 were on probation.
The district administration went hog-wild with its realignment in
order to shift teacher payroll costs from regular Ed to special Ed programs, and to whip up support for NCLB-inspired
"reform" of the MN teacher tenure act.
The teacher realignment of 2004 was undertaken by the administration
with support from the teachers union leadership. Some teachers and parents with standing to sue the district over the realignment
formally complained about the realignment process violating their rights under the contract and teacher tenure act (in the
case of teachers) or the students' right to be in a safe environment (in the case of special Ed students). The district reportedly
scrapped plans to realign teachers due to those specific challenges. The district initially advised 196 teachers
that they would be realigned, but eventually realigned about 140 teachers. The legality of the realignment process was never
tested through an arbitration proceeding (as the union was blocking grievances that might otherwise go to arbitration) or through
the court system.