Dear Commons Community,
A California appeals court ruled on Thursday that the state’s job protections for teachers do not deprive poor and minority students of a quality education or violate their civil rights — reversing a landmark lower court decision (Vergara v. California) that had overturned the state’s teacher tenure rules.The decision stymies a national movement, financed by several corporate-affiliated philanthropies, that challenged tenure protections for teachers. As reported in the New York Times:
“Two years ago, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge struck down five California statutes connected with the awarding of tenure, as well as rules that govern the use of seniority to determine layoffs during budget crises. Ruling in a case brought by a group of nine high school students — four of whom have since graduated — the judge, Rolf Treu, said the statutes violated the students’ rights to an equal education under the California Constitution because they allowed poorly performing teachers to remain indefinitely in classrooms.
In reversing the trial court’s decision, a panel of three appeals judges wrote that if ineffective teachers are in place, the statutes themselves were not to blame because it was school and district administrators who “determine where teachers within a district are assigned to teach.” The laws themselves, the judges wrote, do not instruct districts in where to place teachers.
“The court’s job is merely to determine whether the statutes are constitutional,” the panel wrote, “not if they are ‘a good idea.’”
Teachers unions immediately welcomed the ruling.
“I consider this a victory for teachers and a victory for students,” said Eric C. Heins, the president of the California Teachers Association. “What these statutes have done is, one, they bring stability to the system, and for many students they bring stability to their schools and to the teachers in their schools. For many kids, the school environment is the only stable environment that many of them have.”
Tom Torlakson, the state superintendent of public instruction in California, said the appeals court decision would allow districts to recruit and train teachers at a time of shortages in the state.
“All of our students deserve great teachers,” Mr. Torlakson said in a statement. “Teachers are not the problem in our schools — they are the answer to helping students succeed on the pathway to 21st century college and careers.”
The plaintiffs in the case, known as Vergara v. California, said they would appeal to the state Supreme Court.”
A good day for teachers and students in California!