The New York Times (4/17, Medina, Subscription Publication) reports that for more than two months, attorneys have been arguing in a California court “whether California’s laws governing teacher tenure, firing and layoffs violate students’ constitutional right to an education,” and by early July, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu “will deliver the first legal ruling on the case, which has attracted national attention.” In many states, “opponents of tenure rules, who have tried and largely failed to bring about changes through state legislatures, are looking to this case as a test of whether taking their arguments to court could prove more successful.”
News from Opening Bell
Stateline (4/2, Lu) reports on the trial Vergara v. California. Nonprofit group Students Matter brought the lawsuit on behalf of nine students. The plaintiffs allege that the state’s employment laws “leave so many ineffective teachers on the job that some students many of them low-income and minority fail to receive the education guaranteed by the state constitution.” Teachers unions contend that inadequate education is not due to poor quality teachers, but rather “inadequate resources, large class sizes and lack of parental involvement.” Sandi Jacobs, managing director of state policy for NCTQ, said California is one of few states that doesn’t consider student performance when evaluating teachers. Jesse Rothstein, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, Goldman School of Public Policy, cautioned that the models used to measure teacher performance may be unreliable. The article also considers employment policies and performance incentives in schools across the US.Read More
Stateline (4/2, Lu) reports on the trial Vergara v. California. Nonprofit group Students Matter brought the lawsuit on behalf of nine students. The plaintiffs allege that the state’s employment laws “leave so many ineffective teachers on the job that some students many of them low-income and minority fail to receive the education guaranteed by the state constitution.” Teachers unions contend that inadequate education is not due to poor quality teachers, but rather “inadequate resources, large class sizes and lack of parental involvement.” Sandi Jacobs, managing director of state policy for NCTQ, said California is one of few states that doesn’t consider student performance when evaluating teachers. Jesse Rothstein, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, Goldman School of Public Policy, cautioned that the models used to measure teacher performance may be unreliable. The article also considers employment policies and performance incentives in schools across the USRead More
The Los Angeles Times (3/28, Blume) reports that both sides made final arguments Thursday in “a groundbreaking, two-month trial challenging teacher job protections in California,” with both sides claiming to be representing the best interests of students. Noting that the lawsuit “seeks to overturn a set of laws that affect how teachers are fired, laid off and granted tenure,” the Times reports that the plaintiffs allege that those laws “hinder the removal of ineffective teachers,” resulting in “a workforce with thousands of ‘grossly ineffective’ teachers.” The plaintiffs argue that this impacts low-income and minority students disproportionately and violates the state constitution. Attorneys for the state’s teachers unions “countered that it is not the laws but poor management that is to blame for districts’ failing to root out incompetent instructors.”Read More
In an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle (3/19), former Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Russlynn Ali, who is currently the chair of the Emerson Collective Education Fund, writes that under California law, it is “nearly impossible to remove known, chronically underperforming educators from the classroom,” and writes in support of Vergara vs. California, a lawsuit that “asserts that the state laws providing automatic lifetime employment for failing California public school teachers are unconstitutional.” Ali portrays the case as pitting “the power of teachers” against the impetus of “protecting the right of every student in California to strong teaching and a quality education.”
The Los Angeles Times (1/30, Blume) reports that former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has “formally endorsed” the lawsuit in California state court seeking to reduce “job protections for California teachers that are among the most extensive in the nation.” Noting that the plaintiffs in the case say that the state’s powerful job protections violate students’ rights to having effective teachers, the Times writes that Villaraigosa stressed that “improving overall teaching and removing the worst teachers are crucial” for “increasing academic achievement and reducing the dropout rate.”
California Teachers Association Defends Current Law.The Wall Street Journal (1/31, Gershman) reports on the California Teachers Association’s role as a defendant in the case, noting that the union says that the law protects experienced teachers from being fired or laid off arbitrarily.
Stephen Sawchuk writes at the Education Week (1/29) “TeacherBeat” blog that as opening arguments in a California lawsuit “that seeks to overturn major elements of teachers’ seniority and tenure protections” begin this week, the form of the sides’ arguments “gradually began to emerge.” He writes that the plaintiffs argue that the teacher protection laws “put poor and minority children at a higher risk of receiving subpar instruction than their peers,” but defense attorneys representing the state “argued that the laws do not force districts to assign poor teachers to at-risk students; instead, they actually serve to keep the best teachers in the profession.”
Plaintiffs’ Attorney: Laws Protect Incompetent Teachers. In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal (1/29, Subscription Publication), attorney Theodore J. Boutrous Jr. writes about the lawsuit, noting that he is one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs in the case. He argues that the teacher protection laws in question harm students by making it exceedingly difficult to fire poorly performing teachers. He argues that this violates students’ rights to an adequate education.
Several media reports are covering the beginning of arguments in a California lawsuit challenging state laws protecting teacher employment. The Los Angeles Times (1/27, Ceasar) reports that the lawsuit questions “the constitutionality of laws that govern California’s teacher tenure rules, seniority policies and the dismissal process – an overhaul of which could upend controversial job security for instructors.” Plaintiffs argue that since the laws “do not ensure all students have access to an adequate education,” they violate the state constitution’s equal protection guarantee. The lawsuit “seeks to revamp a dismissal process the plaintiffs say is too costly and time consuming” and to make tenure more difficult to obtain.Read More
The AP (1/26, Watson) reports, “Nine California public school students are suing the state over its laws on teacher tenure, seniority and other protections that the plaintiffs say keep bad educators in classrooms.” The case will be heard in Los Angeles Superior Court starting today. The lead attorney said that tenure has led to a “dysfunctional and arbitrary” system. The California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers have requested that the court dismiss the suit. That was rejected. The case is reported in the context of moves by a number of states that “have weakened teaching job protections, including generations-old tenure, to give administrators more flexibility to fire bad teachers.” The case is backed by Students Matter.
The Washington Post (1/27, Layton) describes the case as “pitting a Silicon Valley mogul with a star-studded legal team against some of the most powerful labor unions in the country.” The suit is being pursued as legislative attempts to alter the tenure laws have failed.