New York Groups File Lawsuit Challenging Teacher Tenure Laws

 

NPR (7/29, Hogan) reports in its “Ed” blog that on Monday a group parents and advocates in New York City filed a law suit challenging the state’s teacher tenure laws. The law suits look to build off the Vergara v. California ruling that challenged similar laws and found them unconstitutional. Critics of the laws argue that teachers receive tenure too quickly, that the “last-in, first-out” seniority rules dismisses younger teachers before older teachers without considering a teacher’s effectiveness, and firing low-performing teachers involves too much red tape.

        The Washington Post (7/28, Layton) reports that former television journalist Campbell Brown is leading one of the advocacy groups that is challenging the tenure laws. Brown was a former CNN anchor, and “contends that job protections for teachers are archaic” and inhibit school systems. The lawsuit claims that the laws are especially inhibiting poor, minority

California Teachers, Administrators Said To Take A “Nuanced View” Of Tenure Ruling

 

In a piece for NPR’s (7/10, Westervelt) “Ed” blog, Eric Westervelt wrote that since a California judge overturned the state’s teacher tenure system, much of the rhetoric from both sides of the issue has been of the “give no ground” variety and “risks drowning out educators in the middle.” Westervelt added that many teachers and administrators take a “more nuanced” view and support “tenure protections for teachers — especially against dismissals that could be political or capricious,” but believe “problems with tenure and dismissal need to be addressed” so that administrators are able to “get rid of really bad teachers.”

California Tenure Ruling Leads To “Copycat” Efforts In Other States

 

US News & World Report (7/9) reports that in the wake of the Vergara ruling, which overturned California’s teacher tenure laws, “parents, students and legislators are challenging teacher tenure laws in an increasing number of states.” The article describes “copycat lawsuits” in some states, though the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association state affiliate have “vowed to fight the decision.”

 

 

Despite Court Ruling, California Bill Would Expand Tenure Protections

 

Reuters (6/19, Bernstein) reports that California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez has introduced a bill to expand tenure protections from the state’s public school teachers to other employees. The move comes despite a court ruling by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge last week that found that found that the tenure system was unconstitutional, as it is primarily meant to protect teachers’ jobs, and harmed students’ interests. The state has not decided if it will appeal that ruling.

        In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal (6/19, Subscription Publication), New York University education professor Pedro Noguera notes the California court ruling, but argues that schools are not failing students because a few bad teachers are protected by the tenure system. He argues that tenure in fact aids many poor, urban school districts, because it allows them to retain teachers who would otherwise be unlikely to stay.

 

Duncan Comments On Teacher Tenure Ruling

 

Bloomberg News (6/16, Staiti) reports on comments by Education Secretary Arne Duncan regarding a California judge’s decision to end the state’s teacher tenure laws, calling it a “broken status quo” in need of reform. “The decision affirmed the fundamental duty to ensure that all students, regardless of zip code, family income or skin color, receive a quality education – starting with an effective teacher,” Duncan said in a statement. He added, “It took enormous courage for 10th-grader Beatriz Vergara and her eight co-plaintiffs to stand up and demand change to a broken status quo. It’ll take courage from all of us to come to consensus on new solutions.” According to Bloomberg, Duncan also said he advocates tenure after a “meaningful” span of time, and that performance should dictate layoffs rather than seniority.

        Duncan Reflects On “Right Lessons” From California Teacher Tenure Ruling. The Washington Post (6/16, Strauss) reports in its “Answer Sheet” blog that Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Sunday issued a new statement “offering what he thinks are the ‘right lessons’” in the Vergara case, “in which a Los Angeles judge tossed out state statutes giving job protections to teachers.” Duncan put forth what he thinks are the “right lessons” from the case. In his statement on Sunday, Duncan “said that ‘tenure itself is not the issue here’ and that he ‘absolutely’ supports ‘job security for effective teachers,’ but he still praised the verdict as the right one in this case.” Duncan “said he hopes the verdict doesn’t lead to a long period in which the case is appealed by teachers unions (which will certainly happen) and for more such lawsuits to be filed in other states by those seeking to reduce union power (which will certainly happen).”

 

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.

California Teacher Tenure Case Seen As Potential Precedent

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.”

Nonprofit Sues California Over Teacher Retention Laws

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.

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Nonprofit Sues California Over Teacher Retention Laws

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

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Final Arguments Heard In California Teacher Tenure Lawsuit

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.”

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Ali Supports California Teacher Tenure Lawsuit

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.”

Former Los Angeles Mayor Endorses Teacher Protection Lawsuit

     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.

California Teacher Protection Lawsuit Takes Shape

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.

Testimony In California Teacher Job Protections Lawsuit Begins

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.

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Los Angeles Court To Consider Legality Of Tenure

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.