Education

California Court Slams Teacher Privilege in Name of Student Rights in Vergara Decision

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Somewhat amazing decision this morning out of California Superior Court in the case of Vergara v. California.

BlueRobot / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

As I reported back in February:

Nine public school students, with the support of the educational rights activist group Students Matter…filed suit in May 2012 against California and several of its educational agencies. As the students' lawyers stated in a court filing opposed to the defendants' (failed) motion for summary judgment, the rules they are challenging "prevent California's school districts from providing even a minimally acceptable education to some of California's most vulnerable students because they effectively prohibit school districts from prioritizing, or meaningfully considering, the interests of their students when making critical teacher employment decisions."

And this next part is important: "As a direct result…school districts are forced to place failing teachers—those who are often well known to be either unable or unwilling to perform their jobs in even a minimally satisfactory manner—in classrooms where they perform miserably year after year in teaching California's students. Students taught by these grossly ineffective teachers are missing out on half or more of the learning that students taught by average teachers receive in a school year, leaving them far behind their peers and placing the quality of the rest of their lives in jeopardy."

The Superior Court today decided for the students.

Judge Rolf M. Treu reasoned that the challenged teacher rules—regarding permanent employment status, dismissal procedures, and a "last in first out" rule for layoffs—do indeed damage California children's constitutional right (on the state level) to an education. He wrote that the challenged statutes "cause the potential and/or unreasonable exposure of grossly ineffective teachers to all California students" and "to minority and/or low income students in particular, in violation of the equal protection clause of the California constitution."

"Evidence has been elicited in this trial," the Judge writes, "of the specific effect of grossly ineffective teachers on students. The evidence is compelling. Indeed, it shocks the conscience." He was convinced by expert testimony that bad teachers can cause over a million in lifetime earning losses for students, and cost them 9 months of learning per year compared to students with even average teachers. He estimate 2,750 to 8,250 inferior teachers active in California now.

"Plaintiffs have proven, by a preponderance of the evidence, that that Challenged Statutes impose a real and appreciable impact on students' fundamental right to equality of education and that they impose a disproportionate burden on poor and minority students."

The decision is stayed for now, pending the appeal by the state.

Students Matter, the activist group who sponsored the suit, announced in a press release today that:

"This is a monumental day for California's public education system," said Plaintiffs' lead co-counsel, Theodore J.  Boutrous Jr.  "By striking down these irrational laws, the Court has recognized that all students deserve a quality education.  Today's ruling is a victory not only for our nine Plaintiffs; it is a victory for students, parents, and teachers across California."….

During trial, Plaintiffs presented overwhelming evidence that California's statutes dealing with teacher dismissal and permanent employment impose a real harm on students and their fundamental right to equality in education.  The evidence demonstrated that:

  • Permanent employment is granted in far too little time, resulting in grossly ineffective teachers attaining lifetime job protections;
  • The dismissal statutes are far too costly and time consuming, forcing districts to remain stuck with grossly ineffective teachers; and
  • The quality-blind layoffs resulting from the "Last-in, First-out" (LIFO) statute force districts to fire top teachers and retain ineffective ones.

Importantly, the trial showed that these statutes harm both students and teachers, and that they serve no necessary purpose.

Students and administrators alike cheered this blow to the teachers' position, also from the Students Matter press release:

"This ruling means that kids like me will have a real chance to get a great education and succeed in life," said Plaintiff, and rising high school freshman, Julia Macias.  "With this case, we have shown that students have a voice and can demand change when we stand together. I am incredibly thankful to the judge for giving me and my fellow Plaintiffs the opportunity to present our case."

Reacting to the decision, Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy said:  "This is a truly historic day for our education system.  Today's decision is a call to action to begin implementing, without delay, the solutions that help address the problems highlighted by the Vergara trial. Every day that these laws remain in effect is an opportunity denied.  It's unacceptable, and a violation of our education system's sacred pact with the public." 

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  1. Unless the Vergara involved is Sofia Vergara, I’m not interested.

    1. For once, you’re making sense.

  2. That kid holding the sign? He’s totally not a puppet.

    1. I bet his mom totally isn’t a teacher planning to retire on her pension of blood money.

      1. Is there anything in politics more disgusting than the seemingly ever-increasing use of children as human shields to push an agenda?

        1. The arguments people make to justify statism and political authority are probably more disgusting.

          1. I should said “tactic in politics,” I suppose.

  3. I can think of many ways I would prefer to have seen this accomplished. But I’ll take it. Sets a nice precedent for other states to start busting up the worst monopoly in American life.

    1. Apparently I can post with Firefox and not Chrome. But can I post from the i2p, which is the only reason I still have Firefox?

      1. Medical Physics Guy|6.10.14 @ 2:47PM|#
        “Apparently I can post with Firefox and not Chrome. But can I post from the i2p, which is the only reason I still have Firefox?”

        Firefox wasn’t working all morning.

    2. No, cop unions are worse

      1. They all facilitate the continuation of injustice. Just in different degrees.

        1. Teachers unions are at a disadvantage to cops unions because teachers can’t get away with shooting a troublesome student.

          1. Not yet.

  4. He wrote that the challenged statues “cause the potential and/or unreasonable exposure of grossly ineffective teachers” and “to minority and/or low income students in particular, in violation of the equal protection clause of the California constitution.”

    Why, oh, why does every bit of sorta good news seem to come from this kind of derptastic reasoning?

    1. The Equal Protection Clause (both in the Federal Constitution and state constitutions) is all the rage these days.

      Seems to be the only part that may give libertarians the outcomes we want in particular cases, but the reasoning always seems to advance a leftwing agenda.

      1. Agreed. The compromise is relieving and nauseating at the same time.

  5. “He estimates 2,750 to 8,250 inferior teachers active in California now.”

    He means just in LAUSD, right?

  6. So what is going to happen? Put the ineffective teachers in rubber rooms so they can still collect paychecks without harming any kids?

    1. They probably will try to pull that.

    2. That’s what they do in NYC.

    3. Think of the paychecks!

  7. Also what subject matter could possibly be so controversial as to require tenure for grade school teachers?

    1. Dude, Green Eggs and Ham is super subversive. And don’t get me started on Shel Silverstein.

      1. Um. No trigger warning?

      2. Who wouldn’t want their grade-schooler being taught The Devil and Billy Markham?

        1. Dude, that’s nothing compared to Judy Blume. Are you there, God? It’s my period. And an erection.

        2. Also TIL that Silverstein also wrote the lyrics of “A Boy Named Sue”, which is totally awesome.

      3. The Lorax is anti-capitalist propaganda.

        1. How the fuck does the Lorax have the right to “speak for the trees”? Did the trees get together and vote for him or something?

    2. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs doesn’t mention climate change at all.

      TEACH THE CONTROVERSY

    3. Also In the Night Kitchen is all about pedophilia. Or at the very least naked child sex.

      1. So…just like It? THE DEADLIGHTS

      2. You know what the best part about fucking 23 year olds is?

        There’s 20 of them.

  8. Judge Rolf M. Treu’s reasoned that the challenged teacher rules?regarding permanent employment status, dismissal procedures, and a “last in first out” rule for layoffs?do indeed damage California children’s constitutional right (on the state level) to an education.

    Absolutely they do. Now, it would seem to me that the same such union rules that allow the continued employment of cops who violate people’s constitutional rights are the same. I am firmly convinced that these contracts are venerable to Constitutional challenge.

    1. The car is in paint. Viper Green.
      And it’s looking awesome.

  9. “Judge Rolf M. Treu’s reasoned that the challenged teacher rules… do indeed damage California children’s constitutional right (on the state level) to an education.”

    Live by the positive rights; die by the positive rights.

  10. “So what is going to happen? Put the ineffective teachers in rubber rooms so they can still collect paychecks without harming any kids?”

    even that ^ would be a marginal improvement over status quo. of course, all the crap teachers will probably get a fat raise. danger pay or something.

  11. I’m conflicted over this: I like the outcome, but abhor the reasoning that goes into reaching it.

    Well, probably shouldn’t look a gift horse too closely in the mouth. A group with special rights/privileges have been put on the road to be stripped of them, in such a manner as to increase liberty and the potential for market forces to work people to the correct path. A victory is a victory.

    If this reasoning is later used to push anti-libertarian policies, well, we’ll deal with it when we get to it. The most perfect situation would be if we and those sympathetic to our beliefs used this positive rights reasoning to strip away special privileges and obviously harmful distortions to the market until it started to be use by our opponents more than by ourselves.

    Then we would strip positive rights from the California State constitution.

    However, since libertarian and anti-positive rights principles holding enough sway in California to remove them from the constitution is unlikely (though stranger things have happened) as long as we get a net increase in liberty in the end, I’ll be happy. Its not like I have to live in California anyways. 🙂

    1. JagerIV|6.10.14 @ 11:40PM|#
      “I’m conflicted over this: I like the outcome, but abhor the reasoning that goes into reaching it.”

      Yep.
      But I do like the “customers” being given standing; the unions and the pols have for too long taken precedence over the the students and their parents.

    2. I don’t find the reasoning so abhorrent; I mean, in cases where we do decide (rightly or wrongly) to spend public funds to do something, that better be done constitutionally, rationally, and equitably. Insisting on the latter conditions doesn’t automatically legitimize the original policy itself.

      In fact, one important argument against many of these policies is that it is impossible to implement them in a way that doesn’t lead to rent seeking, corruption, and/or discrimination, so insisting on a “fair” implementation often is the best way of demonstrating why the policy shouldn’t have been adopted in the first place, because it causes people to realize what’s wrong with it.

  12. It’s worth noting that the Silicon Valley millionaire who brought this suit cares deeply about public education and is himself a product of the public schools and a public university.

    In other words, he’s a California progressive hailing originally from the Northeast.

    He has no problems with unions or with the idea of public schools – how could he after his “free” education made him 100’s of millions? What he is trying to do is improve the system and remove one of it’s glaring deficiencies.

    Some of you seem to have the idea that those of us on the left are clueless as to problems and the fixing of them. I’d submit that’s the opposite of reality. Unlike the tea party and libertarians, we don’t wish to drown gubment in the bathtub or expose how inefficient it is (that’s a given!), but rather fight to change things. You know, the time honored way – through the courts, the voting booth, etc.

    Yeah, I know – not as much “fun” as playing soldier on the Bundy Ranch, but we civilized humans will just have to swallow that.

    1. It’s been my observation that many of the proponents of a public schools system (like many of the proponents of progressive policies in general) have never experienced the conditions they are ostensibly trying to address.

      That has a long tradition: socialists and Marxists, by and large, were not workers but intellectuals telling workers what was best for them.

  13. Awesome!

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