This article combines original interviews, secondary policy analysis, and non-ideal theory to determine the ‘least unjust’ approach to budget-driven ‘Reduction in Force’ teacher firings in Los Angeles. Building from the a priori claim that schools should serve children’s interests, this article addresses the following questions: To whom is justice owed in this case? What does justice demand for each set of claimants? How should conflicts be resolved? The authors conclude that the least unjust way to fire teachers in response to budgetary constraints is to use a holistic assessment combining student evaluations, administrative evaluations, value-added measures, and seniority, modified by school stability considerations. Unexpectedly, justice toward students and justice toward teachers turn out to be substantially coextensive when determining budget-driven teacher layoffs. Teachers and students are mutual allies, not antagonistic claimants. Furthermore, to the extent that teachers’ and students’ justice claims are not aligned, this lack of alignment likely reveals not an intrinsic conflict, but a policy failure that is itself borne of prior injustice.
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