California Court Strikes Down Teachers’ Job Protections As Unconstitutional




NBC Nightly News (6/10, story 6, 0:30, Williams) reported, “A closely watched case in the world of education,” resulted in a ruling “that California’s tenure protection for public schoolteachers are unconstitutional.” NBC said, “A lot of people will be watching this outcome.”

        USA Today (6/11, Toppo) reports the two largest teachers unions “vowed to challenge” the decision. USA Today notes the case “could reverberate across” the country as “other states look to overhaul their systems for hiring, paying and retaining teachers.” The article notes that National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel called the ruling “deeply flawed,” and quotes him saying, “Today’s ruling would make it harder to attract and retain quality teachers in our classrooms and ignores all research that shows experience is a key factor in effective teaching.” Noting that Education Secretary Arne Duncan took the opposite position on the ruling, USA Today reports that “he said he hoped the ruling would help ‘build a new framework for the teaching profession that protects students’ rights to equal educational opportunities while providing teachers the support, respect and rewarding careers they deserve.’”

        According to the Los Angeles Times (6/11, Ceasar, Blume), the unions “denounced” the preliminary ruling by a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge Rolf Treu as “a misguided attack on teachers and students.” Treu ruled “that it was too easy for teachers to gain strong job protections and too difficult to dismiss” poor performing instructors. The Times reports that Duncan “called the ruling a nationwide ‘mandate’ to change similar ‘laws, practices and systems that fail to identify and support our best teachers and match them with our neediest students.’”

        The Washington Times (6/11, Richardson) reports the lawsuit was “filed by nine public school students and backed by...Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Welch” against the state and the California Teachers Association.

        The Washington Post (6/11, Layton) reports the ruling in Vergara v. California “struck down three state laws,” including statutes that “grant tenure to teachers after two years, require layoffs by seniority, and call or a complex and lengthy process before a teacher can be fired.” True held that the laws “created unequal conditions...and deprive poor children of the best teachers.”

        In its coverage, the AP (6/10) reports that Duncan “hailed the judge’s ruling as a chance for schools everywhere to open a conversation on equal opportunity in education,” and concludes by quoting him saying, “The students who brought this lawsuit are, unfortunately, just nine out of millions of young people in America who are disadvantaged by laws, practices and systems that fail to identify and support our best teachers and match them with our neediest students. Today’s court decision is a mandate to fix these problems.”

        Politico (6/10, Simon) reports that Duncan “signaled his support for the ongoing campaign to reform hiring and firing laws,” noting that laws make it difficult to identify the top teachers and “match them with our neediest students.” Duncan “called the ruling ‘a mandate to fix these problems.’” Politico quotes Van Roekel saying, “Let’s be clear. This lawsuit was never about helping students, but is yet another attempt by millionaires and corporate special interests to undermine the teaching profession and push their own ideological agenda on public schools and students while working to privatize public education.”

        The New York Times (6/11, Medina, Subscription Publication) reports the president of the California Federation of Teachers, Joshua Pechthalt, said the judge “fell victim to the anti-union, anti-teacher rhetoric” and the plaintiff’s lawyers “set out to scapegoat teachers for the problems that exist in public education.” Pechthalt added, “There are real problems in our schools, but this decision in no way helps us move the ball forward.” The Times notes that the case is expected to “generate dozens more like it” across the country. The Times reports that Duncan “enthusiastically endorsed” the ruling, and “issued a statement saying the ruling could help millions of students who are hurt by existing teacher tenure laws.” The piece quotes Duncan saying, “My hope is that today’s decision moves from the courtroom toward a collaborative process in California that is fair, thoughtful, practical and swift. Every state, every school district needs to have that kind of conversation.”

        The Wall Street Journal (6/11, Phillips, Subscription Publication) reports the teachers’ unions indicated they plan to appeal the ruling. California Teachers Association spokesman Frank Wells expressed confidence in the unions’ ability to “prevail on appeal.” Wells said, “We don’t believe the court is the place to be making these kinds of policy decisions.”

        Other media outlets covering this story include the Sacramento (CA) Bee (6/10), the San Francisco Chronicle (6/11), theChristian Science Monitor (6/11), the Education Week (6/11) “TeacherBeat” blog, PBS’ Newshour With Jim Lehrer (6/11), CNN(6/11, Martinez, Cnn), the Washington Examiner (6/11), the NPR (6/11, Westervelt) “NprEd” blog, and US News & World Report(6/10).

        New York Activists Energized By California Ruling. The New York Post (6/11) reports that parents in New York were “scrambling to overturn New York’s” tenure laws on Tuesday after the “stunning” ruling. The article quotes Mona Davids of the NYC Parents Union saying, “The California ruling sets a precedent. We want to file the same lawsuit here in New York. For too long, children have been condemned to schools with low-performing teachers protected by the teachers union.”

        WSJournal: Case Provides Disadvantaged Students Hope Of Judicial Protection of Rights. The Wall Street Journal (6/11, Subscription Publication) editorializes that Treu made the correct ruling and argues that the case provides disadvantaged students an opportunity to seek protection of their rights from the judicial system.