I learned about two different, but somewhat related events that took place today with the potential for significant impact on our profession over time. The first is the state court decision in the California v. Vergara suit by students and school districts where the court struck down laws protecting teacher tenure and last in first out (LIFO) decisions. Expecting an appeal, the court ordered a stay on the decision. The plaintiffs focused on state statutes they believe are in the way of all students receiving the guaranteed education under the state constitution.
“Plaintiffs claim that the Challenged Statutes result in grossly ineffective teachers obtaining and retaining permanent employment, and that these teachers are disproportionately situated in schools serving predominantly low-income and minority students. Plaintiffs’ equal protection claims assert that the Challenged Statutes violate their fundamental rights to equality of education by adversely affecting the quality of the education they are afforded by the state.”
You can go anywhere in the education blog world and find articles and commentary. In this New York Times piece we read about reactions from both sides and get a sense of the court's decision in the words below.
“Substantial evidence presented makes it clear to this court that the challenged statutes disproportionately affect poor and/or minority students,” Judge Rolf M. Treu of Los Angeles Superior Court wrote in the ruling. “The evidence is compelling. Indeed, it shocks the conscience.”
In this piece from Andy Smarick at FLYPAPER he shares 10 things to keep in mind as this case proceeds through the court system.
6. Like just about every groundbreaking decision, this one includes dramatic language to make its point (and likely help sustain the decision on appeal). “Evidence has been elicited in this trial of the specific effect of grossly ineffective teachers on students. The evidence is compelling. Indeed, it shocks the conscience.”
This case will be important to follow as it will open the door for similar suits in other states. The provisions that were struck down by the court such as teacher tenure and last in first out (LIFO) are protections against what unions see as unfair personnel decisions made by building and district leaders and undoing them will not result in fixing the problems in schools.
“We believe the judge fell victim to the anti-union, anti-teacher rhetoric and one of American’s finest corporate law firms that set out to scapegoat teachers for the real problems that exist in public education,” said Joshua Pechthalt, the president of the California Federation of Teachers. “There are real problems in our schools, but this decision in no way helps us move the ball forward.”
Supporters of the lawsuit disagree and seem ready to help those in other states with a similar belief.
Observers on both sides expect the case to generate dozens more like it in cities and states around the country. David Welch, a Silicon Valley technology magnate who financed the organization that is largely responsible for bringing the Vergara case to court — Students Matter — has indicated that his group is open to funding other similar legal fights, particularly in states with powerful teachers’ unions where legislatures have defeated attempts to change teacher tenure laws.
The second event was an announcement by the Gates Foundation that they are recommending a two-year delay in linking Common Core test scores to teacher evaluation. I'm wondering how their change in policy that ed to our state's waiver loss aligns with this new belief and whether Secretary Duncan is open to being influenced. I'll share some thoughts in my next post.