By Ben Velderman

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Absurd teachers union work rules have claimed the career of another talented young educator  who just happens to be Sacramento’s reigning “Teacher of the Year.”

Elementary teacher Michelle Apperson finished her ninth and final year with the Sacramento Unified School District yesterday, after being notified last month that her job was being eliminated due to a budget shortage.

“It’s an awful situation,” said district spokesperson Gabe Ross, according to  “It’s another sign of how education’s funding really needs an overhaul.”

Ross is only half right: It’s an awful situation, but it is caused by antiquated and nonsensical union work rules – not by a lack of education funding.

It’s true that the district is facing a $43 million budget deficit, and needed to downsize its teaching staff. But it’s the teacher union’s “last in, first out” policy – which requires layoffs to be based on a teacher’s length of service rather than effectiveness – that forced this much-loved teacher out the door.

Even though she was doing a great job, Apperson is now unemployed and facing a weak job market. It may take years for more students to benefit from her skills, thanks to her union.

But Apperson’s not alone. “Last in, first out” is proving to be a problem for effective, young teachers all across the nation.

In Boston, the city council held a hearing yesterday regarding the “last in, first out” policy at city schools.

Sarah Heggerman, the mother of three elementary students, complained that an “incredible” third-grade art teacher was bumped out of her job by a veteran middle school teacher.

“So we lost out again on a wonderful teacher,” Heggerman was quoted as saying by the Boston Herald.

The newspaper also reported that “one East Boston vice principal, Melissa Granetz, was so upset by the city’s rigid school hiring policy that she resigned in tears at City Hall yesterday ….”

“It embarrasses me to be a part of a system that disrespects students. Putting the best teachers in front of classes every day isn’t possible,” Granetz said during the hearing.

Scrapping seniority protections would not only benefit students, but it would treat teachers as the professionals they are. The unions argue that all educators are exactly the same, but even elementary age children know that isn’t so.

Just ask Apperson’s former students.

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