Millionaires bent on de-professionalizing teaching won the first round in a lawsuit intent on replacing due process rights with evaluations based on high stakes test scores; however, legal analysts indicated confidence that it will be overturned on appeal.
In a case that has caught national attention; a Los Angeles, California Superior Court judge ruled that teacher tenure laws in the state were unconstitutional and violated the civil rights of students. The lawsuit of Vergara v California was brought on by a corporate funded education “reform” group, Students Matter.
Although many states do not have “tenure” for K-12 teachers, tenure is essentially due process.
Critics of due process rights will make the false claim that it prevents bad teachers from getting fired. However, we would argue that the vast majority of struggling teachers quit before even subjecting themselves to the procedures involved in due process. Studies have even shown that 40-50% of new teachers leave within the first five years of teaching.
The President of the Los Angeles teachers union, UTLA, may have summed up the ruling best:
"This decision today is an attack on teachers, which is a socially acceptable way to attack children. Instead of providing for smaller classes or more counselors, you attack teacher and student rights.”
The basis for the judge’s decision was that low-income and minority students were disproportionally harmed when being taught by what he characterized as “grossly ineffective” teachers.
It is a fact that less money is spent on high poverty students and that student teacher ratios are less favorable in high poverty schools, much like those in Los Angeles County. It certainly didn’t help that like a lot of states, California has cut spending in education dramatically. School funding in California has received a cut of $18 billion since 2009.
NEA President Dennis Van Roekel released a statement in response to the verdict. In part he says:
“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. Research shows experience enhances teacher effectiveness and increases student productivity at all grade levels, and that ultimately contributes to better outcomes for students. Yet, today’s ruling hurts students and serves only to undermine the ability of school districts to recruit and retain high quality teachers.
“NEA will continue to stand up for students and focus on the ingredients that are proven to help students the most—like supporting new teachers, providing ongoing training, paying teachers a decent salary, and developing reliable evaluation systems to measure teacher effectiveness.”
ISTA will continue to follow this story.